To quote the late American baseball player, ‘Yogi’ Berra’, ”It’s like déjà vu all over again”, and a spectator at this match could be forgiven for thinking that they were watching a re-run of the home defeat by Northern in early December.
Once again, a strong wind with a biting edge was the dominating factor and consequently there were numerous handling and kicking errors by both sides, but Morley, like Northern before them, managed the conditions better than Alnwick with much the same outcome.
Morley’s heavier pack gave Alnwick a few problems in the set scrums, but elsewhere Alnwick’s forwards again punched well above their weight and gave a good account of themselves.
The wind made throwing in to the line-outs a bit tricky but Alnwick varied their options and conceded nothing, even occasionally poaching the Yorkshiremen’s throw.
Morley had the benefit of the wind as they kicked off up the slope but made little impression in the opening minutes as handling errors and solid Alnwick tackling kept them at bay.
Alnwick successfully defended a 5 metre line-out following a shrewd kick after a disruptive Morley scrum in mid-field, the clearance giving Morley a line-out on half-way.
The ball came back on Alnwick’s side but they were penalised on their own 22 and Chester put over the kick for 0 – 3..
Attacking from the re-start, Alnwick were awarded a penalty outside Morley’s 22 and although Bird’s kick was blown wide, Alnwick were able to build some momentum through a powerful run from Bird, with backs and forwards linking in attacks up the left and centre.
A penalty to Morley relieved the pressure and then Alnwick had to put in some serious rear-guard action as good loose play by Morley’s forwards pushed Alnwick back.
Probing runs by Morley’s backs and a neat chip from Chester threatened Alnwick’s right, which Alnwick countered, but as Morley re-cycled the ball to mid-field, Alnwick were again penalised on their 22 and Chester slotted the goal for 0 – 6 at half-time.
Having had a reasonable share of territory and possession playing into the wind, Alnwick were well in the game at 0 – 6 but suffered an early setback.
Alnwick conceded a scrum as the return kick from the kick off was fumbled but were penalised.
Morley’s throw at the resulting 5 metre line-out was not straight but Alnwick were again penalised.
Opting for a 5 metre scrum, Morley were initially held before the ball was popped up to winger Sim who scored in the left corner for 0 – 11 , with the conversion missed.
Flanker Gray , injured in the build up to the try, was replaced by James Hamilton, making a welcome return from injury.
Helped by a penalty when Burn was deliberately tripped as he chased his own grubber kick, Alnwick laid siege to the Morley line and were finally rewarded when an attempted clearance following a 5 metre line-out was charged down for Sutheran to claim the touch-down.
Bird’s difficult conversion across the wind landed on the crossbar before dropping over to make it 7 – 11.
Although Alnwick were putting pressure on themselves by too many strategic and relieving kicks going directly into touch, they were showing plenty of ambition and made progress when the ball was kept in hand.
A half break by Hutchinson nearly set them away but they couldn’t quite evade Morley’s covering and just as things were looking promising they conceded two penalties in quick succession, the second being put over by Chester from 22 metres for 7 – 14 .
Alnwick strove mightily up to the end but ultimately had to settle for a losing bonus point.
They may feel that they could have, or indeed should have, done better, but there can be few complaints.
Overall, there was little to choose between the two sides and in the end Alnwick lost, not through lack of effort but because they conceded penalties in kickable positions and, on failing to adjust to the conditions as effectively as Morley, came a poor second in the strategic kicking stakes.
Alnwick: J.Bird, A.Shell, W.Smith, F.Hutchinson(Capt), R.Straker, C.Burn, P.Moralee, P.Brown, D.Smith, R.Elliot, J.Burgess, O.Sutheran, M.Gray, G.Smith, R.Ellis.Subs: J.Hamilton, D.Clayton, I.Gray.
Next match: Percy Park (away) Saturday, February 6 KO 2.15pm