Harrogate 10-13 Alnwick RFC
Alnwick’s opponents on Saturday, sitting in third place in the Northern Division League would have been keen to pick up points to keep them in touch with leaders Hull and Billingham.
They were to be disappointed. Harrogate are an old established team who moved out of town to their new ground at Rudding Lane four years ago. This was the first time that the two clubs had met.
In perfect conditions, the home team kicked off but it was the visitors who were to apply the early pressure.
They established a dominance in the scrum, which caused Harrogate problems in the first half whilst the backs, particularly Cuthbert and Holmes, ensured that the game was played in the visitor’s half of the field with some incisive running. Calum and Johnny Burn were also proving a handful with their usual inventiveness.
Unfortunately, the Harrogate centre, Fox, received a nasty head injury early in the first half and took no further part in the game.
A lineout offence by the home side, gave Alnwick a chance to put the first points on the board which Bird gratefully accepted 0-3.
For no obvious apparent reason the tide began to turn and the home side were slowly getting back into the game. An infringement by Alnwick saw Harrogate opting to kick for touch when they could have levelled the game with a penalty. The decision paid off with a driving maul allowing scrum half Matthews to ground the ball for a converted try. 7-3.
If the visitors were dominating the scrum, the home team, thanks to Brady and Patrick were getting the better of the lineouts. So much so that they opted for lineouts rather than scrums on a number of occasions.
With half time beckoning Alnwick struck. A touch of class with a beauty of a delayed pass by J Burn to cousin H Burn saw the hooker make good progress up the left and although halted the ensuing play allowed Alnwick to set up a driving maul for Phillips to score. 7-8.
Craig-Greer came on for Alnwick in the second half maintaining pressure in the scrum although the Yorkshire team had learned their lesson with their No. 8 picking up and moving the ball quickly.
Alnwick had also worked out a strategy to combat the Harrogate command of the lineout.
The opening score in this half fell to the home side taking advantage of an Alnwick off-side infringement. 10-8. Credit to both sides for trying to break the deadlock but this was never to be a high scoring game.
It was the Northumberland side who were to seize one of the few opportunities presented. A rare mistake at a line out by Harrogate allowed wing forward Courty to pick the ball up, break through and make 25m before passing to Bird who is not easy to stop when he scents the line. He failed to convert his own try but with 10 minutes to go the visitors were in front 10-13.
Alnwick know how to defend. Only leaders Hull have conceded fewer points in the league. They held out for another great victory on the road after their defeat of Ilkley a few weeks previously. Their next opponents, at Greensfield, are Sandal, who notched up 50 points against Vale of Lune last weekend.
Alnwick: Moralee, Holmes, Cuthbert, Mallaburn, Atkinson, C. Burn, J. Burn, Phillips, H. Burn, Smith, Gray, Young, Courty, Hamilton, Bird, Craig-Greer Hutchinson, Gothorp.
* Alnwick 2nds beat Middlesbrough 48-14 last Saturday and Alnwick 3rds beat Border Park 39-36 in a closely fought game last Sunday.