Rare home defeat for Alnwick as Harrogate make off with win

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Alnwick RFC 7-24 Harrogate

Harrogate arrived at Greensfield on the back of a 69 point victory last week at home to Vale of Lune. They were greeted by a strong March wind blowing across the pitch.

This was Alnwick’s inside centre Frank Hutchinson’s 200th game for the first team after making his debut in 2005. He captained the club when they won the County Cup for the first time in 33 years in 2017.

Known for his meaty tackling, Frank has been a great servant for the club. Despite his age his recent form has been outstanding.

Gothorp and Bird returned to the side with Hamish Burn moving to openside allowing Greer, Smith and Clayton to form the front row. Sean Hutchinson joined his brother in the absence of Cuthbert.

Alnwick began brightly with two early attacks halted by unfortunate knock ons. 10 metres for dissention took Harrogate to within kicking distance of the posts but they opted to go for the line.

Great defence by Alnwick, with Clayton heavily involved enabled the home team to clear their lines.

Then it was the home side’s turn to threaten with Smales gliding through the Harrogate defence only to be stopped short. A tip tackle by Harrogate’s Dodds gave Alnwick a kickable penalty but they also spurned the three points. Unfortunately, the lineout resulted in yet another knock on.

Alnwick may just have had the better of the first 40 minutes but with some substantial tackling in midfield by both sides, the 0-0 score at half time was hardly surprising and the referee’s whistle would have been welcomed by both teams.

Maybe the physical nature of the first half battle took its toll or maybe the Harrogate coach’s hair drier was in operation in the changing room, either way, the visitors began the final 40 minutes with great determination.

A charge down shortly after the kick off led to scrum half Matthews putting the finishing touches to a push over unconverted try. 0-5.

Alnwick’s scrum came under increasing pressure and with only 10 minutes of the second half gone they conceded a penalty try with Greer yellow carded. 0-12.

Harrogate forwards were proving a handful and minutes later, 2nd row Brady took the score to 0-17 with a converted try.

Alnwick were spending too much time in their own 22. They chose not to compete for a Harrogate lineout on 10m but to no avail with man of the match No8 Coser, going over for the bonus point try keeping the visitor’s hopes of promotion alive. 0-24.

Courty left the field for 10 minutes after committing what the referee thought was a dubious tackle and Harrogate had Boyde yellow carded.

Sutheran was now on for Young as Alnwick sought to compete for the remaining 20 minutes.

As full time approached the home crowd were given something to warm them when the irrepressible Smales cut through to score before cheekily turning to drop a conversion. Final score 7-24.

Alnwick were undone when for 20 intense minutes the visitors turned on the gas. It may be argued that referee Boyle’s yellow cards did Alnwick no favours but Harrogate were able to elevate their game when it counted.

It was a hard contest and the forwards of both teams would have known that they’d been in a game. Perhaps Alnwick rely too much on the inventiveness of a few players but isn’t that what excites the faithful?

The club thanks A J Scott for yet again sponsoring the game.

Next Saturday is a rest day for the 1st team, but the Colts are in action at home v Hawick KO 1pm. There is also a game on Sunday away to Border Park.

Alnwick; Smales, Moralee, S Hutchinson, Atkinson, C Burn, J Burn, Greer, Smith, Clayton, Bird, Young, Courty, H Burn, Gothorp, Holmes, Gray, Sutheran.