Alnwick 33 West Hartlepool 23
North One East
With three of the next four games being against teams in the top half of the league, it was important that this match, generously sponsored by DP Builders Ltd, should provide Alnwick with some points to move them away from the relegation zone, writes Gwyn Thomas.
Alnwick’s determination finally saw them through to emerge as deserving winners.
On a cool day with the hint of drizzle in the air and a firm pitch, Alnwick made the best possible start as West Hartlepool kicked off up the slope with the benefit of a moderate wind.
Fielding the drop-kick near their own 22, Alnwick immediately drove back at West with Mallaburn gaining ground on the left.
From West’s line-out on their 10-metre line, Alnwick gained possession, Hamilton linked with Burn coming up into the line and excellent handling released Foy on the right, who, with a well-timed pass back inside, put Ali Gray over for a simple try within two minutes for 5-0.
From the restart, Burgess made ground from an Alnwick scrum and at a further scrum, Alnwick forwards were so much in control that West were penalised for dropping the scrum.
From the ensuing line-out on West’s 10-metre line, Alnwick put in a tremendous drive before Burgess was held some 30 metres out where West were again penalised for hands in the ruck, giving Burn a relatively simple kick for 8-0.
Alnwick comfortably dealt with the restart and from a line-out on West’s 10-metre line, an individual drive by Gothorp saw the ever-threatening Ali Gray nearly get through, only for Alnwick to be penalised.
At the line-out after a further penalty, Alnwick stole the ball and a poor kick allowed West’s backs to run it back but a kick ahead went dead.
An Alnwick drive following the drop-out ended in midfield with a penalty to West and although the goal attempt missed, they were coming more into it and showing plenty of ambition.
Alnwick put themselves under pressure as a good drive was undone by wayward passing and failure to deal with the loose ball, but two penalties initially relieved the pressure only for Burn’s goal attempt with the second to fall short and for West to put the pressure back on Alnwick with an excellent clearance gaining some 60 metres.
Losing a line-out and scrum on their own 22 and conceding a penalty in front of the posts, Alnwick’s Burgess was yellow carded for interference within 10 metres of the attempted tap and run. Southern slotted the simple kick for 8-3.
Despite being down to 14 men and coming under pressure at the scrums, Alnwick were able to keep West out and gained territory with a penalty as West deliberately knocked on. From the line-out on West’s 22, the ball was moved swiftly left by Ali Gray and Mallaburn for Foy, who, unexpectedly materialising from the right, crossed for a half-time score of 13-3 with the conversion missed.
If the penalty count had marginally favoured Alnwick in the first half, they conceded four penalties in as many minutes at the start of the second, the last of these yielding a line-out from which West’s backs sent Myers through for a try with Southern kicking the conversion for 13-10.
A crunching tackle by Hutchinson following the restart halted West and a powerful drive at an Alnwick scrum caught West offside and Burn’s kick eased the lead to 16-10.
Alnwick knocked on at the restart, and were penalised after a reset scrum, conceding a further 10 metres for dissent and a position from which Southern’s boot made it 16-13.
No sooner was play back under way than Alnwick’s lead was restored as stand-off Moralee made a searing break from his own 10-metre line, wrong-footing the opposition and picking a way through their leaden-footed ranks to outpace the cover for a scintillating solo try which Burn converted for 23-13.
In the next 10 minutes, neither side could gain an edge, until Alnwick’s skipper Boothman was yellow carded at a set scrum and at the line-out, Alnwick collapsed the maul enabling Southern’s kick to make it 23-16.
Things went badly for Alnwick after the restart as a clearance kick went directly into touch, resulting in a line-out on their 22.
A drive by West’s forwards set up an attack moving left then right where Alnwick just held out, but numerical advantage then told and as the ball went back to the left, their defence couldn’t prevent Southern crossing for a try which he then converted to level at 23-23.
As the tension mounted, Alnwick forwards stormed into the attack from the restart, gaining a penalty for Burn to put their noses in front 26-23.
With five minutes remaining and numbers restored, Alnwick pressed hard, until, following an exchange of penalties, Burn put Alnwick five metres out with an excellent touch-kick from another penalty on halfway.
Alnwick’s catch and drive shunted West backwards and referee Astle promptly awarded a penalty try as West infringed at the maul. Burn’s conversion brought the final score to 33-23, bagging five points from something of a curate’s-egg performance by the home side.
Alnwick – Tries: A Gray, Foy, Moralee, penalty. Conversions: Burn (two). Penalties: Burn (three).
West Hartlepool – Tries: Myers, Southern. Conversions: Southern (two). Penalties: Southern (three).
Team: C Burn, B Foy, A Gray, F Hutchinson, R Mallaburn, P Moralee, I Gray, R Elliot, H Sordy, B Boothman (C), J Burgess, O Sutheran, M Grey, J Hamilton, B Gothorp. Subs: J Grey, R Thompson, J Weddell. Referee: Matt Astle (Northumberland Society).
Next match: Wheatley Hills (home).