Driffield 19-27 Alnwick
The denizens of Driffield Rugby Club are certainly among the most sociable and hospitable people you could wish to meet and belie the unwarranted legend that Yorkshiremen have short arms and deep pockets.
But once on the pitch the legend becomes more believable as they make Scrooge seem like a benevolent Santa.
Leaving Driffield with even a losing bonus point is no small achievement, so all credit to Alnwick in taking maximum points by playing some enterprising rugby and scoring four quality tries in the process.
Driffield would have surely been anxious not to allow Alnwick to repeat last season’s double over them and with calm, dry weather on this occasion much more conducive to open rugby than the rain, murk and mud of the previous visit, spectators were treated to an entertaining but highly competitive and genuinely sporting contest.
With Alnwick kicking off on a good playing surface, the brisk opening exchanges showed both sides intention of playing positive attacking rugby.
Within the first five minutes a tap-&-go penalty to Driffield was countered by a kick and chase from right winger Moralee who couldn’t quite get to the ball before it crossed the dead ball line.
Driffield used their bulky pack to good effect against Alnwick’s lighter but more mobile unit and when an Alnwick attack from a line-out on Driffield’s 22 broke down, bullocking runs by centre Brankley and the dynamic flanker Nellon took play into Alnwick’s half. A forward drive from a line-out caught Alnwick off-side and Brigham notched the goal for a 3 – 0 lead.
Alnwick’s response was immediate as Driffield mis-fielded the re-start and then knocked on as Alnwick’s backs were halted on the home 10 metre line. Alnwick took their own put-in comfortably and released scrum-half Todd who accelerated through a large gap in the defences to round the full-back at pace and score under the posts for a great solo try which Bird converted for 3 – 7.
Driffield’s back and forwards were causing problems with strong direct running and it took a thumping tackle from Bird to halt a threatening break. Good defending by Alnwick then kept Driffield at bay until a Brigham penalty made it 6 – 7.
It was now Driffield’s turn to defend as Alnwick pressed forward with good work by Hutchison, Hamilton and Gothorpe and when Driffield failed to clear their lines from a 5m line-out following an Alnwick tap-&-go penalty, Bird burst through on the right to score an unconverted try for 6 – 12 just on half-time.
At the start of the second half a Brigham penalty made it 9 – 12 and Driffield now had their tails up. Good interplay between their forwards and backs, aided by some unusually shoddy Alnwick tackling, set winger Furbank on a strong run to score an unconverted try in the left corner for 14 – 12.
Sutheran’s excellent take from the re-start immediately put Alnwick on the attack and when a cracking break in the centre by skipper Hutchinson ended with a scrum to Alnwick to the right of the posts some 10m out, left winger Mallaburn had no trouble gathering Warcup’s superbly accurate cross-field kick to score for 14 – 17 with the conversion missed.
A good break from Driffield lead to a penalty as Alnwick were caught offside and they would have drawn level had not Brigham’s kick drifted wide.
Alnwick’s fourth try was a tribute to their fitness and mobility and came as Driffield tried to clear their lines after a period of sustained pressure.
Mallaburn pounced on a rebound on Driffield’s 10 metre line, taking play up the left touchline, offloading to the ubiquitous Sutheran whose popped pass found his fellow lock Gray in support. He stormed into Driffield’s 22 and as the cover came across, his well-timed pass put Mallaburn over for his second try and a 14 – 22 lead with the conversion missed.
For the next ten minutes only some determined Driffield defending kept Alnwick out but when a break by Todd was halted, quick re-cycling gave Warcup just enough time and space to put over a very neatly taken drop goal for 14 – 27.
Driffield however had the final word. A break by Pettinger created gaps which Alnwick struggled to plug and although Dinsdale was solidly tackled out on the right, Stephenson took his offload to score in the corner for 19 – 27.
The conversion would have given the Yorkshiremen a losing bonus point but in a game where small margins mattered it was not to be and ultimately it was Alnwick’s sharpness which gave them the edge and a well-earned win.
Alnwick: J Bird, P Moralee, P Robinson, F Hutchinson (Capt), R Mallaburn, J Warcup, H Todd, C Phillips, H Burn, D Smith, M Gray, O Sutheran, G Smith, J Hamilton, B Gothorpe. Subs: D Clayton, B Courty, S Ord.
Referee: Steve Penfold (Yorkshire Society).
Next match: Bradford & Bingley (home) Saturday, December 11 - Kick-off 2.15pm.