North One East Division

Such was the crushing margin of Alnwick’s victory in this try extravaganza, that by the end, one began to feel a measure of sympathy for a gallant Horden side that have yet to win a game this season and are obviously struggling to come to terms with life in this league, writes Gwyn Thomas.

Alnwick vs Horden. Picture by Colin Boughen.

Alnwick vs Horden. Picture by Colin Boughen.

Following success at various levels last season, the side which helped them gain promotion as champions has now apparently disintegrated through retirements, injuries and absenteeism.

In a blustery wind that made handling tricky, it could not be said that Horden were totally blasted away in this match, which was sponsored by MKM.

But had some of Alnwick’s more ambitious passes not been blown adrift the points against total could well have reached embarrassing proportions as opposed to the merely uncomfortable.

Horden kicked off up the slope with the wind and Alnwick were swiftly disabused of any thoughts they may have had that this match would be a walkover.

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Horden forwards immediately took control of the ball in the Alnwick 22 metre before it was moved left for full-back Heckleys to come into the line and touch down for 0-5, less than 90 seconds into the game, with the conversion missed.

Alnwick soon got their act together and, despite losing a line-out, two penalties conceded by Horden saw a sharp run from Moralee yield a further penalty on the Horden 10 metre.

From the ensuing line-out some 15 metres from Horden’s line, number eight Gothorp bounced defenders out of his way and stormed through for a try under the posts and for O’Grady to make it 7-5.

From the restart, an Alnwick attack up the left ended at halfway, but a knock-on by Horden gave the hosts the scrum, from which Gothorp made ground with another thumping run before releasing Moralee for a try which O’Grady converted for 14-5.

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Horden’s re-start went straight into touch, allowing Alnwick to attack from the scrum on halfway, but were unable to capitalise from a penalty and line-out.

The wind was making accurate passing difficult and a run from Shell caught Horden offside on their 22 metre, but O’Grady’s attempt at goal was blown wide.

A long drop-out was run back by Alnwick and a typical blast by Hamilton up the centre ended with a scrum to Horden, which a dominant Alnwick pack nearly took against the head.

A series of handling errors and scrums eventually saw Alnwick win their put-in to release their backs and for Moralee to score his second try, with O’Grady converting (21-5).

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Alnwick vs Horden rugby'Picture Colin Boughen

Using their forward power, Alnwick were now exerting considerable pressure, virtually encamped on Horden’s 22 metre, but unrewarded as another O’Grady penalty attempt was blown adrift.

A long drop-out was brought back up the centre by Alnwick from a line-out but a Moralee tap penalty was stopped and although Horden cleared, a lively run by Mallaburn produced a penalty to Alnwick on Horden’s 22 metre.

From the ensuing line-out 10 metre out, a forward drive put flanker Ellis over for a try to mark his return from injury. Although the conversion missed, Alnwick had reason to be happy, 26-5 at half-time with a bonus point secured.

The second half was barely under way before Alnwick secured a turnover following a Horden scrum and, in the blink of an eye, the ball was in winger Shell’s hands and he was touching down between the posts for 31-5, with O’Grady making it 33-5.

Horden fought back, gaining a penalty following a catch and drive from the re-start, but lost the line-out and Alnwick cleared the danger.

At the next scrum, a free-kick and forward drive took Horden back to within five metre only to see Gothorp power upfield and a well-placed kick gained Alnwick a line-out in the 22 metre.

Action from Alnwick against Horden. Picture by Colin Boughen

Action from Alnwick against Horden. Picture by Colin Boughen

A forward drive brought the ball left and at loose play near the Horden line, winger Oliver was penalised, receiving a yellow card for deliberate handling offside.

Opting for five-metre scrums, Alnwick’s excellent pack twice exerted enough pressure, leaving referee Pellew no option but to award a penalty try, O’Grady converting for 40-5.

The next 15 minutes saw plenty of unproductive effort from both sides with scrappy play as passes went astray in the wind, until Horden knocked on in the loose on their 10 metre line and, from the scrum, the ball was whipped out to Shell, who put in a jinking run from 35 metres to score, with O’Grady adding the extras (47-5).

Horden then mounted some pressure of their own, only to be halted by good cover tackling, and in trying to maintain that pressure with a tap-penalty, dishearteningly saw a pass intercepted by Shell, who easily out-paced some determined chasers for his third try (52-5), O’Grady adding an excellent crosswind conversion for 54-5.

Fair play to Horden though, they immediately came back from the kick-off and centre Watson too easily evaded some tired Alnwick tackling, rewarding his team’s efforts with a consolation try which Heckleys converted for 54-12.

Following an inconclusive passage of play in added time, Horden yielded a penalty on their 10 metre line and, with a quick tap, Moralee was away in typical style and under the posts to complete his hat-trick and make it 59-12, before a shattered Horden had time to move.

O’Grady converted for 61-12, bringing his tally to eight conversions from nine attempts, an exceptional performance in such difficult, windy conditions, and rounding off a very satisfying afternoon’s work for Alnwick.

Alnwick: R Mallaburn, H Todd, I Gray, F Hutchinson, A Shell, N O’Grady, P Moralee, P Brown, H Sordy, B Boothman (C), J Burgess, A Alexander, R Ellis, J Hamilton, B Gothorp. Subs used: R Elliot, J Bulmer, M Grey. Referee: J Pellew (Northumberland Society). Alnwick tries: Gothorp, Moralee (three), Ellis, A Shell (three) plus penalty try. Conversions: O’Grady (eight). Horden tries: Heckleys, Watson. Conversions: Heckleys.

Next match: West Hartlepool, away, Saturday, kick-off 2.15pm.

Slideshow pictures by Colin Boughen