Malton & Norton 34-21 Alnwick RFC
If nothing else, this match served to emphasise yet again that this is one very tight league where placings count for little.
In order to take anything at all from Yorkshire sides, opponents need to be at full strength and on top of their game.
Sadly for Alnwick this was not the case on Saturday as they were deprived of a number of first choice players through injuries and the demands of lambing time among other issues.
With some players playing out of position and some less experienced young players drafted in to plug the gaps, the team sheet had an unfamiliar look about it. On the day Malton were the better side and deserving winners but, given the manpower shortages, Alnwick gave a commendable performance and were a little unfortunate not to collect any bonus points.
On a mild spring afternoon with the pitch looking in fine fettle, Alnwick were facing the sun and a gentle breeze as they got the game under way.
Almost immediately Malton were penalised for offside as Alnwick set up a catch-&-drive from a line-out on Malton’s 10 metre line but Bird’s goal attempt was short and Malton quickly ran the ball towards half-way before conceding a scrum and a second penalty.
Warcup’s kick set up a line-out on Malton’s 22 and from a catch-&-drive Alnwick whipped the ball smartly to the backs where a strong run by Mallaburn broke some weak tackling and Sutheran was on hand to cross by the posts for the opening try for 0 – 5. With Bird’s conversion making it 0 – 7 after only 7 minutes, Alnwick could not have asked for a better start.
From an Alnwick chip ahead following the re-start, Malton’s lively looking backs took play to Alnwick’s 22 and it took some big tackles to contain further threats.
As Malton’s backs attacked from within their own half an attempted grubber rebounded off Mallaburn’s legs and he was quickly on to the loose ball. He might have made the line himself but lost possession as he looked for support allowing Malton to clear to Alnwick’s 10m line.
Bird took a quick throw to the protesting Warcup who was then obliged to put in a long looping run out to the right to clear the danger.
As he was about to be tackled his kick through was rewarded with a 5m scrum and from a quick heel, Warcup delayed his pass slightly for skipper Hutchinson to hit the gap and score, giving Bird a straightforward conversion for 0 – 14.
Malton were soon back in the game as their pack were creating problems in the set scrums and as their active back row provided quick ball from a ruck, centre Rangiuira combined with winger Foan to breach Alnwick’s defence and put flanker Harrison through for a try with Angus’s conversion making it 7 - 14.
Alnwick came back from the re-start with Sutheran making ground from a scrum to earn a line-out on the home 22 from which the forwards drove up the centre. An opportunity went begging as Gothorpe’s drive from a free kick at a scrum died with an overlap outside him.
A penalty to Alnwick gave them a 5m line-out but wasted a good position at a crucial time when prop Smith got a yellow card for reckless use of the knee in the ruck. Alnwick almost managed to see out the sin-bin period but as they conceded a series of four penalties, good interlinking by Malton’s forwards and backs stretched Alnwick’s defence to put full-back Stark over in the left corner for 12 – 14 on the half-time whistle with the conversion missed.
Malton went ahead early in the second half, benefitting from a penalty and a line-out on Alnwick’s 22. The ball was moved quickly along the backs for winger Foan to beat the cover and squeeze in at the left corner for 17 – 14 with the conversion missed.
Alnwick struck back quickly as Sutheran brilliantly caught the re-start kick from which the backs made ground. A quick tap-&-go penalty following a scrum set up a forward drive within Malton’s 22 and Mallaburn was quickest to get to Warcup’s neat chip over the defence for the try which Bird converted for 17 – 21.
Almost immediately, an Angus penalty made it 20 – 21, but with 20 minutes gone the bounce from a chip ahead by full back Stark deceived Bird and winger Clark gathered the loose ball to zip over for the bonus point try with Angus’s conversion making it 27 – 21.
Malton eased further ahead when Alnwick’s over-stretched defence failed to deal with good handling and direct running from Malton’s backs following a line-out and winger Clark sprinted in to score behind the posts with Angus’s conversion making it 34 – 21.
Alnwick gave it their all in the last 10 minutes to try and salvage a bonus point or two but although they came close they couldn’t quite muster the penetration needed and Malton’s very robust and determined defence held sway as they closed the game down in the final minutes to clinch victory and secure their league status.