As a grey, calm afternoon with an autumnal nip in the air ended a brief Indian summer, so too ended Alnwick’s run of three successive victories as newly promoted Guisborough contrived to make off with the spoils and leave Alnwick with the meagre consolation of a losing bonus point.
This match, sponsored by Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group, was a closely fought but somewhat disjointed affair of two distinct halves. With Guisborough on balance getting the better of the first and Alnwick taking the honours in the second the fairest result would probably been a draw. As it was, Guisborough just held on as Alnwick missed a penalty with the last kick of the game which would have levelled the scores.
The opening five minutes looked promising for Alnwick as they were awarded a penalty out on the left on Guisborough’s 22, but Burn’s attempt was wide. From the drop-out Guisborough were penalised on half-way and following a catch-and-drive at the ensuing line-out the ball was moved smartly along Alnwick’s three-quarters to the right. Just when it seemed a break was on, winger Robinson intercepted an ill-directed pass near half-way and raced away to score in the corner. With the conversion missed, 0 – 5 was against the run of play hitherto but a gift which was to prove costly in the final shakedown.
Things did not improve from the re-start, and although centres Hutchinson and Mallaburn shackled Guisborough’s lively back line with some solid tackles, Alnwick were caught offside at a Guisborough scrum and full-back Pollock put over the kick from the Alnwick 10 metre line for 0 – 8.
Alnwick’s play lacked their usual direction and cohesion and after these early setbacks were unable to assert themselves against Guisborough’s hefty forwards and quick dextrous back-line. A kickable penalty which would have reduced Alnwick’s arrears was missed and a period of Guisborough forward pressure was finally rewarded when Lamb went over from a driving maul with Pollock converting for 0 – 15.
Half-time came with no further score although things might have looked less grim for Alnwick had yet another penalty effort not gone awry.
Alnwick began the second half in positive fashion, contesting everything with typical grit and gradually building pressure which yielded a penalty and a line-out short of Guisborough’s line. Alnwick succeeded in protecting the ball as they drove for the line and scrum-half Todd capitalised on their efforts, forcing his way through the smallest of spaces to score, with Burn converting for 7 - 15.
Matters improved further for Alnwick when Guisborough’s No 8 was yellow carded and Burn put over the penalty for 10 – 15 only to see Guisborough extend their lead shortly after to 10 – 18 through a Pollock penalty.
Alnwick were fortunate to escape unscathed as the visitors failed to capitalise on three penalties. Alnwick rebounded with a penalty of their own to earn a 5m line-out where Courty claimed the try after a powerful catch-and-drive for 15 – 18, Burn missing the conversion.
There was still one final twist as Alnwick pressure gained a penalty, and with advantage being played the ball came back to Burn from the loose on Guisborough’s 22 but referee Hall blew the whistle to call play back marginally ahead of Burn’s apparently successful drop-goal. Burn took the penalty which still might have made amends but mis-hit his kick to round off a poor day by his standards.