Durham & Northumberland Division One
ALNWICK had to make sure of winning this vital match to keep them on course for a promotion play-off spot, writes Terry Owen-Smith.
And they did so in fine style, completely out-playing their Teesside visitors, running in 10 tries with seven from the three-quarters and three from the forwards.
The forwards put in a sterling performance – a bruising effort from the front five and a powerful display from the back-row trio of Gordon Smith, Jim Hamilton and Stuart Gray.
Alnwick’s scores came from Gordon Smith, James Bird, Angus Todd and Graeme Potts, with two apiece to Andy Shell, Ali Gray and Jim Hamilton. Goal points were added by Nathan O’Grady (one), Bird (five).
Alnwick went into an early lead, storming into the Acklam 22 to put pressure on the defenders to secure a five-metre penalty line-out. Gordon Smith was driven over for an unconverted try (5-0).
Acklam kicked deep on the restart and Alnwick’s defence were caught infringing at the tackle with Ashton goaling the penalty (5-3).
The restart drop-out was kicked deep to the centre-line where Acklam centre Walker dropped a goal, a thumping 60-metre effort, which eased the visitors ahead (5-6).
Alnwick hammered their way back, a storming, powerful drive by the pack drove back the visitors. Angus Todd burrowed his way over the try-line, but the conversion attempt hit the crossbar (10-6).
Hamilton seized onto the restart ball and powered his way on a powerful crossfield run bouncing off several tackles to end up in the opposition 22 area. The arrival of Alnwick’s forwards won quick ball for Todd to find Ali Gray, who set off on a mazy run that completely bamboozled the visitors’ defence before touching down for a converted try (17-6).
Alnwick broke out to one wing and then brought play quickly to the other, where Bird made a half-break to draw Acklam full-back Connerly to send Shell on a streaming run to touchdown at the posts, giving Bird an easy conversion (24-6).
Acklam pulled back three points at the end of the opening half (24-9).
Alnwick asserted their dominance in the second half. Good possession at a line-out saw Darren Oliver fasten onto a pass, make ground before linking up with Hamilton, who raced through a broken Acklam defence for a converted try (31-9).
The hosts won scrum ball to feed Shell, who rocketed up the touch-line. A swerve inside and then out took him past both wing and full-back to round off a splendid run of play 15 metres, with a converted touchdown under the posts (38-9).
Alnwick’s power completely dominated proceedings. A surging run by Frank Hutchinson saw him break through and link up with Bird and Potts, whose pace took him through to touch down for an unconverted try (43-9).
Alnwick brought on Dave Hamblin (prop), Paul Dobson (number eight) and Nick Mather (outside-half). A combination of quick hands from Ellis and Smith saw Alnwick threaten. Acklam cleared to the centre-line where Bird ran through a broken Acklam defence to weave over for a touchdown, adding the goal points (50-9).
Alnwick added to their points total following a high tackle on Shell. The back-row linked up with Oliver, who quickly fed Ali Gray and his pace took him through for an unconverted try (55-9).
In the dying minutes, flanker Hamilton showed that not all the running skills were the property of the backs, breaking through at pace for an excellent try, with Bird adding his fifth conversion (62-9).
This final score rounded off a thoroughly workmanlike team effort, most satisfying and a pleasure to watch.
Alnwick: J Bird, A Shell, A Gray, F Hutchinson, G Potts, N O’Grady, A Todd, B Boothman, H Sordy, P Brown, D Oliver, R Ellis, G Smith, J Hamilton, S Gray, P Dobson, D Hamblin, N Mather.