Lions stay ahead of the pack

Alnwick Lions...11 Novocastrians III...7

ON a very blustery afternoon, Alnwick Lions went head-to-head with bottom-placed Novocastrians Thirds.

The Lions started the game with Bremner kicking long. Novos came flying out of the blocks with some good ball retention, working through the phases and eventually playing it out to their excellent full-back who burst through the Lions defence with only a great lung-busting, back-tracking tackle from the reliable Horsley stopping him from scoring.

After a Lions scrum Ord the elder picked up and darted down the blind side only to be held up over the line.

The Lions were into the Novos 22 and, after several skirmishes, they battled well to gain a line-out. The ball was spread through the backs and play made its way back across the park and, with the Novos defence stretched, Bremner put big Chris Hills in to score in the corner. The conversion was missed (5-0).

Novos came thundering back and, after wave after wave of attacks, their flanker crashed over but was held up over the line by some great defence.

The wind was making line-outs a complete lottery, with both teams struggling to gain any advantage.

Novos were making an absolute mockery of their bottom-of-the-table standing against the league leaders by putting them under huge pressure.

This pressure eventually came to fruition just before half-time when the Lions had their own ball turned over in a ruck, with the Novos fly-half chipping ahead onto the wing. The ball was collected and a clever inside pass had the Novos lock trundling in for a converted try (5-7).

The Lions were urged at the half-time break to use the boot more and play their rugby in the opposition half rather than foolishly trying to run everything from their own 22 against a well-drilled side.

Both teams physically hammered each other at the start of the second half as the game ebbed and flowed.

Novos had adjusted better to the cross-wind at line-outs and had the edge over the Lions in this department, although the Lions, through their massive tight five, held the advantage in the scrums. The Lions attacked through the middle of the park and came into some serious shellacking from the away side’s tough three-quarters.

But the Lions’ surge earned them a penalty after some wandering hands on the floor were spotted by the referee. Ice-cool Bremner stepped up to slot the penalty to edge the Lions in front (8-7).

The Lions’ dander was up and Bremner hoofed a brilliant range-finder 60 metres downfield to keep the momentum firmly with the home side.

The Lions kept the ball, intelligently working their way towards the posts when another infringement at the breakdown allowed Bremner to slot another kick through the posts (11-7).

If the Lions thought this gave them some breathing room, they could think again as, with another monumental effort, Novos came right back at them, with only more heroic defending up the left flank denying the Newcastle side five metres short.

The kitchen sink, fridge and washing machine was being thrown at the home side, who stood firm through some fantastic performances from one to 15. A true team effort.

Novos had one last chance with a line-out on the Lions 22 but a crooked throw resulted in a Lions scrum, which Ord the elder gratefully kicked out to close the game. A fantastic close game of rugby was enjoyed by the crowd, players and referee, Alnwick holding onto top spot in the league.

Man-of-the-match: Danny Clayton.