Leaders of the pack

Alnwick rugby first team v Ryton. Alnwick reversed their strips so are in white..
Alnwick rugby first team v Ryton. Alnwick reversed their strips so are in white..

Alnwick...40 Ryton...3

Durham & Northumberland League – Division One

ALNWICK kept up their momentum when they overran struggling Tynesiders Ryton, scoring six tries, five converted by Nick Mather.

Ed Shell and club captain Andy Shell both grabbed a brace of tries with Frank Hutchinson and Graeme Potts adding one apiece. It was a tight, hard, tough opening half with Alnwick gradually getting the upper hand to lead 19-0 at the break.

In the second half, they blew away Ryton in the final 14 minutes when they ran the visitors off their feet and showed their very marked superior fitness, scoring 21 points to round off a very comfortable performance.

Early on, Ryton’s outside-half blew a good opening when he casually booted the ball out of play. Alnwick won the line-out, put in a drive to secure ruck ball out to Ed Shell whose pace took him through the Ryton tacklers for an unconverted try (5-0).

Alnwick then profited from the re-start drop-out to go over for another touchdown. The forwards put good ball back to Ian Gray who put the three-quarters away with the ball going back to Andy Shell before his break linked back to Gray and a quick pass to Ed Shell who finished off the move with a try, with goal points added by Mather (12-0).

Ryton fought back only to find their lack of pace in the three-quarters was not causing Alnwick any problems. A long-range penalty by Benson went wide. Ryton put in a determined driving play by the forwards who threatened but found the Alnwick defence unbreakable.

Alnwick won successive scrums to force play upfield to their ten-metre line and after the visitors lost possession in the midfield, Alnwick worked the scrum ball out to Andy Shell who burst away from the defence to race through for a try with Mather adding the conversion points as the opening half came to a close (19-0).

The second half began with Ryton gaining ground following a penalty to camp on the Alnwick five-metre line. A catch-and-drive from the Ryton pack was halted illegally which saw Benson reduce the arrears with a penalty goal (19-3).

Alnwick worked play back up the touchline and cleared the ball away from the 22 area only to concede a penalty that gave the heavyweight Ryton forwards a drive for the tryline – basic errors at rucks and mauls were losing Alnwick hard-won ground.

Too often when Alnwick got ball to the backs it was held up in the midfield when persistent crash-ball tactics prevented any open play and allowed the Ryton defence time to slow release of the ball.

Ryton’s Barr was tackled hard, the ball seized on by Hutchinson, who raced away on a 70-metre run to outpace the Ryton defence and go over for an opportunistic try, with the Mather boot securing goal points (26-3).

Alnwick robbed Ryton after the restart and had moved into the opponents’ half when James Fernback fly-kicked the loose ball on and the Ryton full-back was caught in possesion and robbed of the ball. It was whipped out along the three-quarters in a sharp move which saw Potts finish off a cracking bout of play with a converted try (33-3).

The Ryton restart drop-out was sent straight to Andy Shell who showed a clean pair of heels to outpace a dispirited and very tired set of Ryton players. For the fifth time, Mather added the final conversion.

This secures Alnwick’s position at the top of the league but testing times are looming ahead – next Saturday – at Darlington, who are tracking close behind in the league, in what promises to be a tightly-contested match.

Alnwick: N Mather, G Potts, Ed Shell, F Hutchinson, A Shell (capt.), H O’Grady, I Fray, D Hamblin, H Sordy, I Brown, J Fernback, A Armstrong, G Smith, D Napier, C Davies, J Cowan, A Todd, A Alexander.