Rovers hounded off the park

Alnwick 43 Hartlepool Rovers 3

Durham/Northumberland Division One

Alnwick entertained mid-table Hartlepool on Saturday after a minute’s silence was held for George Haldane, a former player-coach at the club.

Matthew Curry gathered the visitors’ kick-off well and ran into their forwards, making good ground. The ball was spun out for Ed Shell to burst downfield where an early knock-on brought the first scrum of the game. Hartlepool wavered, which was a sign of things to come and cleared for a line-out on halfway.

But the visitors broke the deadlock with a penalty (0-3).

Alnwick reacted well. After a few phases, Ed Shell crashed through the line, cutting a good angle. He was held just short of the line but came up with a neat offload for centre partner Frank Hutchinson to touch down on the left. Joe Weddell added the extras (7-3).

Alnwick began to dominate the set-pieces. Fernback showed good skills in open play with an offload to Ed Shell, who flashed over the 22 to be held inches short. He repeated an offload near the line, this time to winger Ian Gray, who scored in the corner. Weddell missed the extras (12-3).

From the restart, Hartlepool won ball and tried an ambitious drop-goal which struck the post.

Some good inter-play between Gray, Curry, Fernback and finally Smith, who all made a little ground and supplied fast ball for Ord, which went out to Cuthbert. He gave a short pass to Ed Shell, who was having a fine game with ball in hand to charge through the defence, swat the attempted tackle from the visitors’ number 15 with strong hand-off and, with no need to offload this time, cross the line himself just right of the posts. Weddell just missed the conversion (17-3).

Despite being dominated in the scrum, Hartlepool won three quick penalties, but missed the lot to leave the score 17-3 at half-time.

Straight from their own kick-off Alnwick won good ball in the kill zone. A sharp break from Simon Ord was then spun out to dangerman Andrew Shell. He beat one man with some good footwork and floated the ball to an unlikely support player wide out, front-row Ben Boothman, who had to reach down, collect the pass of his big toe and keep some ballast before reaching out to score in the corner. Weddell converted very well (24-3).

The game then went through a quieter spell. Andrew Shell followed a probing kick into the corner. He managed to get his man into touch and provide a good attacking line-out near the Hartlepool line for the Alnwick forwards.

The ball went wide through the backs to Frank Hutchinson. His miss-pass behind Ed Shell reached Andrew Shell, who stepped inside the cover to go over wide out on the left. Weddell failed to convert (29-3).

Pete Brown, returning from a knee injury, replaced Curry after he had put in fully-committed shift and Angus Todd, returning from a skiing holiday came on at number 10 for Rob Cuthbert.

Having put in a fine display at scrum-half, Ord received a heavy blow in a ruck and had to leave the field. Ian Gray took charge at nine, which meant that Rob Cuthbert had to warm up again and return to action on the wing filling in Gray’s position.

In front of the stands and under pressure, Hartlepool won and retained some good scrum-ball and worked short phases upfield to keep Alnwick honest in defence, but it was stolen for Alnwick to clear eventually through Weddell.

Hartlepool worked the ball back with a long kick to reach Richard Ellis sitting in a covering role. He took a quick throw, a bizarre decision given how dominant Alnwick had been in the line-out. It was too high for Gray, who was not expecting it, and Hartlepool latched onto it, running deep into the Alnwick red zone. Luckily for Ellis, some good scramble defence prevented any breach of the Alnwick line. Todd made a good clearance, well chased by Weddell who stole a wayward pass but was just tapped tackled on his way to the line.

Alnwick won a penalty and they opted to go for the scrum. Brown picked it up at the base, taken on again by the forwards before Boothman appeared with the ball and dived over under the posts for his second of the day. Weddell converted to make it 36-3.

From the restart, Alnwick gathered and Todd fielded a clearance. This came back to Weddell who ran it back helped out by Fernback. He offloaded to Hutchinson and Alnwick won a penalty.

Gray tapped it quick and fed Brown on a charging run. Quick ball came back through Gray to Todd who drew the defence and passed to Andrew Shell. He again stepped inside his man and coasted in for another try under the posts converted by Weddell for a final score of 43-3.

Alnwick sponsor: MacGas.