The Claret Jug (Wednesday, December 26 2007)
HOST club Berwick just managed to hold onto The Claret Jug by the narrowest of margins in the annual Boxing Day clash.
Two tries and a conversion were enough to see holders Berwick take the Jug for the fifth consecutive year.
It was noticeable that the passing in the Berwick three-quarters was generally crisper but Alnwick opened the scoring with a try which came from a classic move along the backs.
There was much huffing and puffing between both sets of forwards, particularly when exchanging views on parts of the game.
Overall, it was a typical Boxing Day derby game with some excellent play as players ran off the Christmas Day torpidity.
Alnwick bounced back from early Berwick pressure, gaining good line-out ball which was swept out along the three-quarters in a crisp handling move that saw Andrew Shell race for the corner to go over for the touchdown. But the conversion attempt from Joe Poole drifted wide (0-5).
Further pressure from the Alnwick forwards had Berwick pegged back only to lose the ball at a penalty line-out, Tim Sanderson of Berwick causing an early problem for the Alnwick jumpers as he was to do throughout the game.
The ball was kicked downfield where the Alnwick cover had to retreat sharply to hold up play.
Good Alnwick scrum ball was knocked out along the backs and a try was on with an overlap only for Shell, on the wing, to be brought back for a forward pass. And it would be a missed chance which they would regret.
Berwick won quick ball from a midfield rolling maul which saw livewire scrum-half Tait create an opening but found Alnwick's defensive play too hard a nut to crack.
Rob Howliston broke away from the Berwick midfield to link with Aidan Philipson whose mazy running had the Berwick cover at full stretch.
Berwick conceded a penalty for a midfield offside but this time the wind swept the ball well wide of the posts.
Berwick cleared downfield with a long drop-out ball from Learmouth – Hugh Wrangham took the ball in his 22 area but did not kick for a defensive touch. Instead, he attempted to run the ball out and was caught in possession.
Berwick gained a scrum advantage – a knock-on by Haggelston following a back-row move by their number eight – but let Alnwick off the hook.
Berwick forwards drove on and a knock-on by Philipson in his goal area gave Berwick another scrum then a penalty to gain a 5 metre line-out. A catch and drive finally saw flanker Haggelsten drive over for the equalising score right on half-time.
Two defensive lapses that cost Alnwick dear (5-5).
Alnwick brought on Peter Morallee to replace Matt Griffin at scrum half early in the second half whilst Skeen replaced McCreath at outsidehalf for Berwick, who promptly pulled a penalty attempt wide.
Alnwick drove back through a sharp break along the touchline by Rob Howliston, then a midfield break from Philipson saw him snipe his way through but with only the fullback to beat he lost his footing and was smothered by the Berwick midfield.
Alnwick won the scrum ball and forced their way towards the Berwick tryline through Paul Wilson and Stuart Gray but the ball went down. It was another oppurtunity lost for Alnwick.
The visitors pounded hard at a tightly knit home defense and Richard Ellis was driven over the tryline, but it was not given by referee Halford who ordered a scrum. A drive then saw the ball out to the Alnwick backs. Berwick had come out too early to concede a penalty; a bit of backchat cost them 10 metres and Poole knocked over a penalty to restore Alnwick's lead. 5-8.
But Berwick bounced back straight away. Gaining good lineout ball through Sanderson, and out along the back division, the ball was worked for a penalty lineout inside the Alnwick 22. Quick ball out to Trotter saw the centre streak through for a try at the posts, which Skeen converted. 12-8.
Alnwick's long drop out ball took play into the home half where centre Learmonth knocked on. A powerful pack drive developed into a rolling maul to gain ground into the Berwick 22 area to gain a scrum. Sharp ball from Morallee to Philipson saw the outside half drop a goal to bring the sides within a point. 12-11.
But Berwick held out to retain their hold on The Claret Jug. A most enjoyable match with Berwick rightly just edging the win.
Team: J Poole, H Wrangham, R Howliston, A Gaines, A Shell, A Philipson, M Griffen, A Armstrong, H Swordy, M Milburn, G Smith, P Wilson, R Ellis, C Mould, S Gray, J Spark, P Robinson, R Morallee, M Smith, C Davies.
Saturday's match is a league game away at Wallsend. Kick-off 2.15pm.
Berwick II...8 Alnwick II...21
THE bi-annual boxing day visit to Berwick marked a special occasion for the Peberdy family as father Richard took to the field with his two eldest sons William and Philip.
The match started at brisk pace considering the general consumption over the previous couple of days.
Berwick ran their phases determinedly and looked the sharper in the first quarter, taking the lead with a converted penalty.
Alnwick's defence was pretty solid and the home side could not take advantage. Peberdy Senior's after-burners ran out after 25 minutes and he was replaced by Robinson.
The visitors worked up the pitch and a backs move saw Black cut back, breaking the line to get a pass to Spark who drew the defender and put William Peberdy away at high speed.
He foxed the full-back for the try, converted by Hutchinson.
This lifted the visitors.
Holdsworth ran from deep interlinking with Shell who broke away and looked home and dry but for a good cover tackle. The pack rumbled a ball up to the five metre line and William Peberdy scooped up and jinked over for the second converted try on half-time.
Thompson, Alexander and Hedley came on as Alnwick turned into the wind. Berwick probably had the best of the third quarter and salvaged a try after some determined attacks, but Alnwick got their act together again, working the territory and the phases.
K Ogle made a pleasing cameo return to the blue and gold to get his pistons pumping again. It was left for William Peberdy to finish off the family's day in style with a fine individual try for his hat-trick.
A good team performance.