ALNWICK 19 WEST HARTLEPOOL 13
West Hartlepool’s season had got off to a good start and they came to Alnwick lying second in the table having won five out of six games, defeated only by Morley.
As Alnwick were hoping to build on the strong second half they’d put in against Morley the previous week, this match, generously sponsored by Warcup Law Firm, promised to be a closely fought affair.
In the event, there was very little to choose between the sides.
Alnwick’s forwards were as determined as ever, with Sutheran, Burgess and Elliot prominent, but although the back row were fiercely competitive in the loose, their momentum from the set pieces was restricted, having their hands full to successfully contain their opposite numbers, particularly flanker Myers who was a thorn in Alnwick’s side throughout the afternoon.
Ultimately Alnwick’s margin of victory was due to Bird’s accurate place kicking and the inaccuracy of West’s Stuart Waites in the same area.
Alnwick kicked off with the benefit of a light wind and almost scored within seconds as skipper Frank Hutchinson hacked on from a West fumble but was just beaten in the race to touch down by Waites. A promising Alnwick attack from the drop-out was called back for a line-out as Sutheran was unlucky to have just touched the line as he caught the ball.
A threatening run by Myers ended with a fumble on Alnwick’s 22 allowing Burn to clear From the scrum and although neither side could make much headway, Bird put over a penalty from some 40 metres after ten minutes for 3-0.
The lead was short-lived as West took a tap-&-go penalty following Todd’s kick ahead from the re-start, and as West’s forwards powered up the centre, full-back Southern came into the line to draw in Alnwick’s defence before releasing winger Willis who ran in to score near the posts giving Waites an easy conversion for 3-7.
Todd hobbled off injured with Moralee taking over at scrum-half, Cuthbert swapping to left wing and Andrew Shell coming on to right wing. A Bird penalty reduced the arrears to 6-7 before Alnwick took the lead as some deft handling produced a gem of a try.
As Alnwick gained possession in midfield, Moralee broke to the right releasing Shell whose speed took him to West’s 22 where Moralee took his inside pass and shot past the covering defenders to score near the posts, Bird smoothly landing the conversion for a 13-7 lead at half-time.
The second half opened with two penalties to West but their although their drives from the line-outs besieged Alnwick’s line, the stalwart home defence repulsed the threat before clearing their lines with a penalty. Waites missed with two kickable penalty attempts before Bird kicked one for Alnwick to make it 16-7 and added another for 19-7 with 20 minutes to go .
In the final quarter, determined attack upon counter-attack from both sides produced something of a stalemate, but West got the last points of an engrossing encounter as Gavin Painter took over the kicking to land two penalties for a final score of 19-13, taking home a losing bonus point but leaving Alnwick well satisfied with their afternoon’s work.