Alnwick suffer last-gasp defeat at Pocklington

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Victories and defeats come in a variety of shapes and sizes with reasons galore for thesuccesses and failures.

It is no hardship to deal with a well-earned win and a substantial loss to a better side can often lead to re-evaluation and improvement.

Sometimes however, in a fairly fought struggle where the margin of defeat is narrow , the losers may well feel that the scales of justice were not quite fairly balanced. Such seemed the case for Alnwick on Saturday as Pocklington scraped home in the dying minutes.

As the score suggests this was a close contest between two well matched sides, and whilst Alnwick might justifiably feel a mite hard done by, they might also reflect that they were partly responsible for their own downfall in letting Pocklington get off to a flying start.

With the pitch in good condition but the surface a bit greasy after heavy rain, Alnwick kicked off directly into the sun and a brisk wind. Pocklington were quickly into their stride and after some cautious opening probes by both sides, began to build early pressure.

Alnwick seemed slow to get into gear and with Pocklington’s nuggety scrum-half Rees directing operations, the ball was moved smartly between backs and forwards allowing full-back Allen and centre Hardy to make huge gains with damaging runs. Alnwick’s scrambling defence looked anything but watertight and as Pocklington gained a scrum from an attempted break by Todd, lock Durkin capitalised on the good work of his backs for the first try which Saltmer converted for 7 – 0.

From the re-start, efforts by Alnwick’s backs could only yield a penalty opportunity but Burn’s goal attempt went adrift in the wind.

Pocklington were immediately back on the attack and with an effective catch-and-drive from a line-out on their own 10 metre line Rees put his backs away for centre Hardy to score making it 12 – 0, Saltmer being unable to convert.

Alnwick’s pack, although outweighed by the Pocklington eight, were , as always, punching well above their weight, and had parity in the set pieces.

From a speculative Pocklington punt Shell and Moralee combined to gain ground and boost Alnwick’s morale which was further buoyed as from a scrum on half-way, the ball was moved sharply right where Moralee rocketed round the defence to score near the posts giving Burn a simple conversion for 12 – 7.

Pocklington replied almost immediately launching an attack from a line-out on Alnwick’s 10 metre line for the strong-running Hardy to burst through space on the left and score for 17 – 7, Saltmer missing the conversion.

Pocklington extended their lead to 20 – 7 through a Saltmer penalty before a Burn penalty redressed the balance for 20 – 10.

A trade-mark run up the right by Shell almost produced a try but Pocklington were let off as he slipped on the greasy surface. Pocklington were not able to benefit from three penalties and the half ended with Alnwick missing a long range penalty.

At 20 – 10 down Alnwick had a much to do, but with the elements in their favour they raised their game. A penalty gained them a line-out on Pocklington’s 22 and as the ball went left,

Mallaburn showed speed, strength and determination to break through the opposition backs for a notable try, 20 – 15 with the conversion missed.Alnwick’s were now putting pressure on Pocklington across the field.

On gaining possession from a line-out on their own 10 metre line, Mallaburn was held in mid-field, but Todd was on hand dodge round Pocklington players before chipping past the final defender and gathering the bounce to canter over for a smart solo try. Burn added the conversion to put Alnwick ahead 20 – 22.

Another typical Shell dash up the right wing nearly produced a repeat of Todd’s try as he chipped past full back Allen who then took him out with a late tackle which forced Shell to leave the field. As Shell was odds on to get the touch-down a penalty try would have been no injustice, but although Allen got a yellow card Alnwick failed to capitalise on the penalty.

Both sides now set about looking for the winning score. Alnwick couldn’t quite get past a determined Pocklington defence and their momentum faded as Pocklington pressure increased.

Alnwick defended stoutly but the blindfolds of justice slipped and a spate of six penalties to Pocklington in as many minutes radically altered the balance of play.

Pocklington took full advantage of these gifts and with only minutes left and despite some valiant Alnwick defence in the face of several forward onslaughts, Rees finally found a small hole on the extreme left to make the final score 25 – 22, as the conversion missed.

At the final whistle there was much relief and noisy rejoicing among the Pocklington faithful.An embarrassed silence might have been more appropriate.