Alnwick make winning start to new year

Morpeth 55 Consett 7
Morpeth 55 Consett 7

Alnwick RFC 52-19 Wilmslow

2019 at Greensfield started with something of a bang but not quite as expected by the Alnwick faithful or match sponsors SDL, writes Gwyn Thomas.

With Wilmslow propping up the league on four points, and Alnwick fairly comfortably placed on 32 points, the odds seemed to favour the home side.

A firm pitch on a calm, grey, chilly afternoon suggested ideal conditions for open rugby as Wilmslow kicked off up the slope.

Alnwick found themselves defending the opening skirmishes and Wilmslow were quick to seize the initiative when awarded a free kick at a scrum on the left.

Alnwick were caught napping as scrum-half McCallum moved the ball quickly to the backs were full-back Day ran a good line before popping the ball back to McCallum who looped round to score on the right, converting the try himself for 0-7 in under three minutes.

This was not according to the script but it transpired that this was to be Wlmslow’s only visit to Alnwick’s 22 during the first half as Alnwick kept play mainly in visitors territory.

Good work by C.Burn and Bird set up a break by Cuthbert where excellent support and deft handling by Moralee put winger Holmes over for 5-7 with Bird converting to level the scores at 7-7 after 10 minutes.

For the next 15 minutes Alnwick were beginning to click and kept Wilmslow largely on the back foot. A sharp break to the right by C.Burn was held but prompt support and good handling from Holmes , Moralee and Mallaburn put Cuthbert over for an unconverted try for 12-7.

It was pretty well all Alnwick for the last 10 minutes of the half as they ran in three tries.

Skipper Moralee scored first after being released by Hamilton supporting a break by J.Burn on the left for 17-7 , with Bird converting for 19- 7.

Wilmslow’s re-start was well fielded and scrum-half Burns box kick was superbly taken by Mallaburn. Flanker Courty was quick to the breakdown and kept the momentum going for

J.Burn, Bird and Holmes to follow up and put Gothorp in for a bonus point try, unconverted for 24-7.

Alnwick’s fifth try came after Holmes was halted after a break by Bird and Wilmslow conceded a penalty. Opting for a scrum Alnwick moved the ball right where Moralee was stopped short of the line but Cuthbert was on hand to slip the ball to Hamilton who drove over for a well-deserved try. Bird added the extras for 31-7 on the half-time whistle.

Alnwick’s purple patch continued into the second half when the backs capitalised on a drive by Hamilton, followed by a break by Moralee who put Holmes in under the posts and Bird converted for 38-7 with only a minute played.

Wilmslow were clearly not there just to make up the numbers but were never quite able to match Alnwick’s loose play or their speed and slick handling.

Nonetheless, after a spell of pressure, they moved the ball quickly along the backs where the substitute crossed in the corner for an unconverted try, 38-12.

The situation lasted barely a few minutes before a lobbed pass from the ubiquitous Hamilton after a storming 30m run, was gathered by J.Burn to run in and score by the posts with Bird converting for 45-12.

Minutes later from a line-out on the right, neat inter-passing between Hutchinson and Holmes on the left set up a ruck where quick hands from J.Burn and Hamilton released C.Burn at high speed from 30m to score and give Bird a simple conversion for a 52-12 lead.

Wilmslow fought back for a try by full-back Day in the dying minutes converted by McCallum for 52-19, and may well feel a bit disappointed at not quite managing a try bonus point.

Alnwick might have done even better but for some line-out misunderstandings and some wayward passing but this excellent team effort thoroughly deserved the victory.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, competitive match. Better luck to Wilmslow in the coming months and a happy 2019 to one and all.

Alnwick: P Moralee (Capt), R Mallaburn, R Cuthbert, F Hutchinson, M Holmes, C Burn, J Burn, C Greer, H Burn, D Smith, J Bird, J Young, B Courty, .Hamilton,B Gothorp. Subs: D Clayton, O Sutheran, M Gray.

Referee: Thomas Hurdley (Northern Group).

Next match: Kendal (Away) Saturday, January 12, kick-off 2.15pm.