Alnwick RFC 75-17 Huddersfield YMCA
Not since October has Greensfield hosted back-to-back fixtures, and following victory over Penrith in the previous weekend’s snowy encounter, Alnwick welcomed ninth place Huddersfield YMCA to north Northumberland.
The visitors were looking to inflict Alnwick’s first home defeat of the season, on a sunny March afternoon, but Alnwick were able field a largely unchanged side following their win over Penrith.
With Huddersfield sitting only seven points above the relegation zone before the game, the visitors were not there simply to make up the numbers, and they have always proved to be one of Alnwick’s more formidable opponents.
However, if ever a team had an incentive to win it had surely never been as great as it currently was for the men in blue and gold, who, after 21 games this campaign and a third and fourth place finish in the previous two seasons, found themselves in pole-position in the North East One league, with a chance to move a small step closer to promotion.
Callum Burn hoisted the kick off high into Huddersfield’s 22 and the visitors looked to strike immediately, launching an attack from deep inside their own half. A knock on from the YMCA winger produced the first scrum of the match and the Alnwick pack showed some early dominance, Smith, Green and Phillips on the coal face, establishing front foot ball from which Alnwick looked to attack from.
Strong carries in the midfield from Bird and Smith took play to within touching distance of the visitor’s twenty two metre line and from the resulting ruck the ball found Warcup, who, after spotting a mismatch in the midfield, executed a trademark show-and-go to break the line and race away for the first score of the game, easily converted by the assured boot of Bird.
With a seven point lead in as many minutes, Alnwick were quickly on the scoreboard again, this time Jack Smales making the break down the left touchline after fielding a loose kick, his pass finding Moralee who fed the ball on to Jonny Burn before the winger made good headway down the left wing.
From the resulting ruck, Alnwick showed a glimpse of how they have risen to the top of the table, the ball passing through both forwards and backs hands, while dummy runners held the midfield defence. Callum Burn received the ball on the right wing and the youngster needed no invitation to run in to the space in front of him before powering over the last defender to dot down in the corner.
Although it wasn’t quite one way traffic Alnwick were beginning to look dominant in all aspects of the game and the host’s third try never looked far away. It eventually came from a line-out in Alnwick territory, the ball gathered by flanker Hamilton who carried well into the opposition’s half. Another carry up the middle by centre Hutchinson had the YMCA defence on the ropes and once again the ball found Hamilton who broke clean through and charged up towards the visitor’s twenty-two, his offload finding Cuthbert who palmed it on to Burn before the winger stepped inside the cover defence and raced away under the uprights for his second of the afternoon.
Alnwick were then gifted possession again following a failed restart attempt by the Huddersfield kicker and within 60 seconds YMCA found themselves stood under their posts once more.
Another strong scrum allowed Bird to pick up from the base and feed Moralee; the scrum half ghosted through the defensive line with ease, his pace taking him around the YMCA full-back and under the posts for Alnwick’s fourth, and all important, bonus point try.
It could be argued that Alnwick became slightly complacent in the ten minutes that followed and Huddersfield took advantage of some poor handling and ill-discipline to score a try for themselves. A period of sustained pressure in the home side’s 22 resulted in their centre, Headley, breaking two tackles and diving over for a well worked try, the score set at 28-5 as the whistle blew for half time.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with Alnwick dominating possession and territory while Huddersfield enjoyed only a brief amount of time with the ball in hand. They did, however, manage to cross the Alnwick try line on two occasions, their winger crossing the white wash following a strong carry from centre Headley, the number 12 looking threatening all game.
Then it was the forwards managed to rumble over for the visitor’s third try following a line out on Alnwick’s five metre line. This was as good as it got for YMCA however, and Alnwick managed to notch up a further 47 points over the course of the ensuing 40 minutes.
Alnwick’s first of the half came from Burn, who followed it up five minutes later with his fourth of the afternoon.
Moralee added his second and Hamilton went over for the eighth.
Smailes then bagged his 11th try of the season, with Courty taking the home side into double figures for the day.
There was still time for Moralee to add another, with Bird taking his tally for the game to 20 points by kicking the extras.
On Saturday Alnwick face Northern at Greensfield.