DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND DIVISION ONE
WITH the pitch judged playable after overnight frost, conditions looked to favour the heavyweight Ashington pack, writes Terry Owen-Smith.
So Alnwick looked to release the ball out to their fast-moving three-quarters, holding onto a narrow seven-point lead at half-time through a Graham Potts try.
They worked play away from the opposition pack and slowed them down by spinning the ball wide.
As the visitors were worn down, the home side took swift action in the final nine minutes when they split the Ashington defence wide with three tries, one from Will Massey following a superb break with Graham Potts completing his hat-trick with two very well executed tries. It was a well-deserved victory that keeps the club comfortably in third place in the league.
The opening quarter of the game saw both sets of forwards battling hard to get on top. The game was fought hard with Ashington outside-half kicking deep to put Alnwick into a defensive holding situation to counter the visitors’ catch-and-drive line-out tactic.
A scrum ball against the lead saw Alnwick’s outside-half Will Massey link onto Ian Gray’s pass, chipping through to pressure Ashington full-back Turner, his relieving kick into the centre-midfield.
Alnwick brought play back into the Ashington half after Ali Gaines had kicked through to gain a line-out inside the visitors’ 22 area.
Good ball was swept out along the three-quarters with Graham Potts rounding his wing to race round to touch down under the posts for James Bird to add the goal points (7-0).
Alnwick continued to hold the visitors forwards hauling them down to secure ruck ball.
Gordon Smith and Richard Ellis were made ground from the back of the scrum with Campbell Blakey pressuring the Ashington half-backs.
The visitors rumbled their way upfield in a series of mauls, right onto the Alnwick try-line only to be thrown back with Alnwick’s defence outstanding in a dour first half.
The second half was only a few minutes old, Ashington pressed forward and drove to the Alnwick try-line for Philips to drop a goal (7-3).
Alnwick struck back right from the restart. Philips dropped the ball, giving Alnwick the scrum in the Ashington 22. The ball went out along the three-quarters to Andy Shell, who broke up the touchline. He was halted with the forwards charging up in support. Will Massey chipped it forward and the Ashington defence was caught offside, with James Bird goaling the penalty to restore Alnwick’s advantage (10-3).
Alnwick brought on Zanda Armstrong, replacing prop Matty Milburn.
Ashington won ball for Halliday to kick directly to James Bird. He switched to Andrew Shell, whose run took him into the Ashington half, linking up with Peter Moralee.
He was tackled but Alnwick secured good ball. A late tackle on Dave Whitehead saw Alnwick run the penalty with Campbell Blakey making inroads into the Ashington defence.
A drive through by Gordon Smith saw the ball released out to Ali Gaines, whose surging run very nearly took him through.
Alnwick’s relentless pressure paid off with the visitors wilting and slow to stem the danger posed when the home forwards and three-quarters linked up in a splendid combined move with plenty of slick passing that finally ended when Will Massey broke through a very tired Ashington cover to go over for a well-deserved try (15-3).
After the restart, two quick passes saw Graham Potts finish off the move with a try wide out, James Bird’s conversion attempt hitting the upright (20-3).
The restart was a disaster for Ashington – a sloppy drop-out attempt was run back at pace with the Bird-Potts combination ending with Potts going over for his hat-trick try (25-3).
Team: J Bird, A Shell, A Gaines, P Moralee, G Potts, W Massey, I Gray, M Milburn, S Allen, S Bremner, D Whitehead, O Sutheran, G Smith, C Blakey, R Ellis, Z Armstrong, D Napier.
Steven Bremner won man-of-the-match again. Thanks went to match sponsors Tustain Motors.