Alnwick 17 Percy Park 32
North One East Division
Sadly, on a day when good conditions cried out for expansive rugby and another huge effort by the Alnwick pack, this match turned out to be something of a pedestrian affair and a huge disappointment to the home team as well as their frustrated supporters.
Strewn with handling errors and mistakes by both sides and with the referee’s frequent whistle an irritating necessity, the game never seemed to get out of low gear in a series of fits and starts with the occasional glimpse of what might have been.
On their first visit to Alnwick for some years and with both sides having won two of their first three matches, Percy Park must have gone home feeling well pleased with the result, albeit with a rather flattering scoreline, which looked unlikely until a tiring Alnwick lost their way in the dying minutes.
Kicking off into the breeze, Alnwick took a bit longer than the five minutes of previous weeks to get a score on the board.
After the exploratory opening exchanges and a successful Alnwick set scrum on the halfway line, a thrust from the Alnwick backs was halted as they were penalised for holding on in the tackle.
The kick took play into the Alnwick 22, but they strayed offside, giving Park the first of several penalties in kickable positions, but were let off the hook as the kick went wide.
From the drop-out, Alnwick were quick to take advantage of a Park fumble as they were caught offside. A sharp run by Warcup almost saw him get through the middle, but as the ball went smartly to the left, the forwards were up in support for Richie Elliott to drive over for the opening try after nine minutes, Weddell being unable to convert (5-0).
Alnwick now started to apply some pressure, but Park mistakes brought no reward as chances were lost through poor handling and Park were eventually able to clear up-field where a drive by their forwards gave them a kickable penalty, but Smith was again off target.
Park forwards resumed their attack, but a kick and chase by scrum-half Moralee moved play upfield where Alnwick stole a Park ball from a line-out on their 10m, but after some good support play with the ball being moved left and then right, the attack petered out with a knock-on.
Approaching the half-hour, Park backs and forwards threatened up the right before the ball was switched back left, where the Alnwick defence was caught out of position and winger Blackburn made the most of it to level the scores at 5-5, Smith missing the conversion.
Almost from the restart, Alnwick were penalised for back-chat and stand-off Smith punished them with a good wind-assisted kick from some 40m to put Park ahead 5-8.
After an exchange of failed clearance kicks, Alnwick were immediately back into it with a powerful forward push up the left which took them over the line but was deemed to have been held up. From a quickly-taken penalty gained from the ensuing 5m scrum, Gothorp took two defenders with him for a powerful individual try to make it 10-8, the conversion being missed as half-time approached.
The second half was barely under way before a Park penalty on halfway gave them a line-out on Alnwick’s 22m. From a kick and chase, substitute Aaron Smith touched down out on the left for Davidson to convert with a good kick to put Park ahead 10-15.
The next 10 minutes was a series of attack and counter-attack, with both sets of backs looking threatening but each contained by their counterparts until Park were accidentally offside some 10m from their own line.
For once, there were no handling errors in the Alnwick backs as the ball moved left for Foy to score and Weddell to convert to put Alnwick’s noses in front (17-15).
With Warcup off with a concussive injury, all the subs now on and Alnwick clinging fiercely to this slight lead, Park seemed to realise that their best options lay with their forwards. With barging runs and quick recycling, they made ground up the left where they were stopped and awarded a penalty as Bulmer got a yellow card.
Taking advantage of their extra man, a powerful forward surge enabled Blackburn to score his second try, unconverted, to regain the lead, with 10 minutes remaining (17-20).
Park now continued their pattern of barging runs and, with Alnwick tiring, strength and pressure finally told as Scott crossed on 76 minutes for an unconverted try (17-25).
Any faint hopes Alnwick might have had of rescuing a losing bonus point were demolished as play went into added time and a final battering charge from Park took them through a fragmenting defence for Ashley Smith to score on 82 minutes and rub salt in the wound by converting, to make it 17-32 with the last kick of the game.
Alnwick: J Bulmer, G Potts, B Foy, J Weddell, H Todd, J Warcup, P Moralee, R Elliott, H Sordy, B Boothman (capt), A Alexander, J Burgess, P Maughan, J Hamilton, B Gothorp. Subs. used: P Brown, R Thompson, A Elliott. Referee: G Crozier (Northumberland Soc.)
Next match: Saturday, Sheffield (away).
Tomorrow sees the start of a series of veterans’ matches as Alnwick Antiques take on their Novos counterparts. Kick-off is at 7pm. Fish suppers with a pint or glass of wine available from 5.30pm.