Alnwick 9 Northern 13
Nothern Division, North One East
Alnwick lost a second close game to Northern, which has seen them fall one place in the table and still not clear of worries about relegation, writes John Ainsworth.
To lose one such game may be considered unfortunate, to lose a second was careless particularly as, once again, the Alnwick pack had the beating of the Northern pack from the start.
Within five minutes, Alnwick had turned Northern over in the tight, however, profligate handling and indiscipline kept the visitors upfield and eventually given a penalty opportunity, which Collins slotted to put them ahead (0-3).
This pattern was repeated throughout the half with Northern capitalising on Alnwick errors and maintaining pressure with which they did little in the face of a solid Alnwick defence which produced some ferocious tackling, with Ed Shell to the fore.
The one dangerous move of the half came from Northern when Harper broke through but this was held up at the line by effective defence.
Such moves were few as the Alnwick pack disrupted Northern in both tight and loose play.
Alnwick’s breaks and forays into the Northern half were rare and always ended in some breakdown from poor execution or the conceding of a penalty.
This inability to keep on the right side of the laws of the game was a problem for Northern, whose raids into Alnwick territory were also regularly halted by the referee’s whistle.
With the half drawing to a close, Alnwick gained a foothold in the Northern 22 and the visitors were penalised in stopping the drive.
Bird stepped up and slotted the penalty with the last act of the half to tie the scores (3-3).
The second half saw a bright start by Alnwick, quickly snuffed out by conceding a penalty and then conceding seven metres for back-chat to the referee, thus enabling Northern to kick deep and gain a line-out in the Alnwick 22.
From this, they gained possession and Gibson made a sharp run from his wing to come into the line and find a gap in the Alnwick defence to touch down near the posts. Collins slotted the conversion (3-10).
That was, more or less, the last attack by Northern.
Alnwick picked up a gear and took the fight into the visitors’ half.
A good pick up and go by Gothorpe drove deep into the Northern half and they were forced to offend to stop the momentum.
Bird took the kick and scored (6-10).
Within three minutes, he had scored again when desperate defence once more overstepped the mark (9-10).
But too often Alnwick’s progress was impeded by their own reckless behaviour both in execution and discipline.
Their pack was still sound. At one point, Northern opted for a scrum after a crooked Alnwick throw-in into the line.
Alnwick destroyed them and swung the ball out wide forcing a scrambled defence by Northern.
However, Northern scored next after Collins elected to take a penalty from over 40 metres, which he duly slotted to conclude the scoring for the game (9-13).
After this, it was all Alnwick with the pack camped on the Northern five-metre line.
Hamilton, Gothorpe and Smith were rampant and drove tirelessly at the Northern line only to be met with by resolute defence from the visitors.
Occasionally, the ball was spun out but over ambition and poor passing only aided the defenders, who were up to the task and so the clock ran down and a relieved Northern took the lion’s share of the points to ease their relegation worries and left Alnwick to rue their lacklustre performance.
Alnwick: J Bird, E Shell J Weddle, F Hutchinson, A Shell (C), J Warcup, P Moralee (I Gray 62), A Johnson (P Brown 48), H Sordy, B Boothman, O Southeran, Alexander, G Smith, J Hamilton, B Gothorpe. Sub not used: R Thompson.
Official: John Ash (Northumberland Society).