Durham/Northumberland Division One
Alnwick powered into an 11-point lead at the top of Durham/Northumberland Division One as most of the chasing teams beneath them were beaten at the weekend.
While other teams were suffering defeat, Alnwick had no problems in overcoming Blyth, who were ripped apart early on before Alnwick’s second-half malaise descended again – but not as badly as in their previous game with Sunderland.
Second-placed Guisborough, with a game in hand, were beaten by Hartlepool Rovers and Gateshead lost to Acklam.
Of the chasing pack only Stockton recorded victory.
Before the kick-off, teams and spectators stood in silent tribute for former player, chairman and president Joe Robson, of Golden Moor, who died recently.
Alnwick showed their attacking flair nearly straight from the kick-off. An early drive by the forwards saw the ball out to Frank Hutchinson, who passed on to Ed Shell, but a forward pass ended the move.
Shell made amends immediately with a fine break through the centre to score. The kick was missed (5-0).
Alnwick nearly added points this time from a line-out close to the Blyth line. Richard Ellis was driven to the line but held up.
Shortly afterwards Alnwick were in the driving seat. A good scrum by Alnwick saw scrum-half Simon Ord waltz his way through a number of tackles to score with a typical diving flourish. Ali Gray converted (12-0).
Gray, who is prominent both in attack and defence in most games, finished off Alnwick’s third try after good work by his fellow backs as the ball came along the line (17-0).
Ord was proving a handful for the Blyth defence and he made another break out to Andrew Shell, who made ground to pass on to brother Ed, who scored try number four (22-0).
Blyth seemed to rely on the boot of Stephenson to make ground and he was a useful kicker, but never once got the ball out to their wings. It was the boot of Stephenson that got Blyth on the scoreboard (22-3).
When Blyth did make ground into the Alnwick half, forwards and backs combined to make some good tackles to close any doors that the Blyth attack thought might open for them.
First-team newcomer Weddell playing at full-back kicked over a penalty for his first points for Alnwick (25-3).
There was a good break by Hutchinson but he was driven into touch only a few metres from the Blyth line.
Peter Brown, improving at prop, made ground. Ali Gray, probably one of the fastest men in the Alnwick backs, took the ball on, and then Simon Ord popped up to score his second and Weddell converted (32-3) at half-time.
Spectators were wondering if Alnwick were to undergo another lack-lustre second-half display as they had endured watching the Sunderland game the week before.
It was not as bad, but with free-running backs and forwards, maybe spectators are expecting too much.
The first point of interest was a great drive by the pack out of defence as Blyth tried to push over.
Cuthbert and Gray combined to clear the Alnwick lines before Hutchinson again made ground, passing onto Ali Gray who scored his second, before Weddell converted (39-3).
Captain Andrew Shell made one of his typical breaks to touchdown and get his name on the scoresheet (44-3).
Two tries in the second half – something Alnwick spectators have not seen for a while but well worth waiting for.
There was still defensive work to do. Andrew Shell with a good kick cleared one danger, Peter Brown now playing in the back row picked up from a seven-man scrum and it was finished off with a good kick by Cuthbert.
Alnwick suffered two yellow cards in this game, one for Peter Smith and the other for Stuart Allen, both of which were a mystery to the spectators.
Alnwick have a break next week, before festive games against Morpeth and Berwick. Then it’s back to league duty, away to Ponteland on January 5.
Alnwick: J Weddell, S Shell (c), E Shell, F Hutchinson, A Gray, R Cuthbert, S Ord, A Johnson, S Allen, P Brown, D Oliver, A Alexander, G Smith, J Kelly, R Ellis. Replacements: D Hamblin, J Burgess, I Gray.