Let battle commence

ALNWICK Rugby Club plays its biggest game in years this weekend and a rallying call has been made for spectators to turn out in force and be the lads’ 16th man, writes James Willoughby.

The Greensfield outfit hosts a winner-takes-all play-off game against Keighley tomorrow – with promotion to the North One East division at stake.

And club president Brian Fergie admits victory would be the ‘icing on the cake’ in what has been a successful 2011/12 season, which has also seen the second and third sides capture silverware during the campaign.

“It is a big game – the biggest in five or six seasons – and we are looking forward to it,” he said.

“I am hoping the fact we have home advantage, and with a good crowd behind us, it will swing the match in our favour.

“One certainly hopes the crowd will be our 16th man.”

Alnwick’s first side, of Durham & Northumberland Division One, booked their play-off berth a few weeks ago.

An impressive season has seen the team rack up 102 points, winning 21 of 26 league matches.

Opponents Keighley, of Yorkshire Division One, will be no easy task though.

They secured their spot in this weekend’s showdown on the final day of the season, with a 29-15 victory over Knottingley, to finish just three points ahead of promotion rivals Driffield.

Brian said: “We are confident that if we play to our best ability we can do the business. We have a fast and exciting three-quarter line and we like to run in tries. But I am pretty sure that Keighley will be confident in their ability too.

“I am expecting two evenly-matched sides and it will be a tough game. We are close to full strength so we will give it our best shot.”

Promotion would see Alnwick play teams such as Sheffield, as well as setting up clashes closer to home, including tantalising derby dates with Morpeth.

And it’s a prospect which the club is relishing.

Brian said: “You only improve by playing against better teams.

“The guys are ready for a new challenge and ready for a step up, and this is the time to do it.”

Alnwick are no strangers to play-off encounters – and the omens are good – having beaten Pontefract in the 2003/04 season to secure promotion.

Here’s to hoping history repeats itself.

Brian said: “There is nothing like a club that is winning games. It gives the place a buzz.

“Both the second and the third sides have had good seasons and have supported the first team, and victory on Saturday would be the icing on the cake.”

The match kicks off at Alnwick at 3pm.

Admission by programme is £3, with children allowed in for free.