Dynamic Alnwick prove too strong for promoted Carlisle

ALNWICK RFC 44CARLISLE 20Prior to the start of this match, spectators and players from both sides observed a respectful minute’s silence to mark the passing earlier in the week of Alec Jeffries after a lengthy period of ill-health.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 6:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 12:14 pm
Action from Saturday's game against Carlisle. Picture by Steve Miller.

Alec was Alnwick’s Club Steward for over 20 years and even after his retirement was always a loyal supporter of the club. How he would have enjoyed the sparkling rugby of this bright autumn afternoon.

It is some years since Carlisle visited Greensfield but this match would be an interesting encounter for them following their promotion last season. Although they showed plenty of enterprise and ambition, it was a dynamic Alnwick who held sway throughout despite Carlisle’s centre Connon scoring all their points through two tries, two conversions and two penalties.

The only downside in playing conditions was a chilly southerly breeze facing Alnwick as they kicked off and had to spend much of the early exchanges successfully thwarting Carlisle’s experimental probes.

However, it was Alnwick who struck first. Having gained some yardage and possession, live-wire hooker Hamish Burn broke deep into Carlisle territory and Gothorp in support was stopped just short. Alnwick were quick to the breakdown and after two short-range drives where the Carlisle defence was blatantly offside, spun the ball left for an excellent finish in the corner by winger Sean Hutchinson for 5 – 0 after 17 minutes with Callum Burn’s conversion effort across the wind just failing against the join of post and crossbar.

Alnwick had a further try within 10 minutes when Gothorp charged down a defensive kick to follow up and make ground almost to the line. Quick recycling to the backs found full-back Weddle up in the line to zip through for a try. This time Callum Burn’s superb strike was on target to make it 12 – 0.

Carlisle struck back through a Connon penalty for 12 – 3 and just before half-time he was able to scurry past weak Alnwick tackling for a try, converting it himself to make it 12 – 10 at the interval.

A Connon penalty immediately after the re-start edged the visitors into a 12 – 13 lead but Alnwick were soon back in front when good support for quick sorties from Hutchinson and Todd put Weddle over for an unconverted try in the right corner for 17 – 13.

Two Callum Burn penalties extended the lead to 23 -13 and from thereon Alnwick were always on the front foot. An attempted Carlisle breakout from their own half vanished into thin air when centre Mallaburn smartly intercepted a casual Carlisle pass and galloped over to score with an extravagant dive, way short of a double pike with twist but nonetheless made it 28 – 13 with Callum Burn adding the extras for 30 – 13.

Alnwick were now bossing it with backs and forwards combining well and driving forward at every opportunity. Two separate instances of quick thinking by Jonny Burn and Jake Woods set up storming runs by Clayton, Ellis and Gothorp. Once again Mallaburn came close but his deft off-load found lock Jonny Young in support rewarding the pack’s efforts with a try under the posts for 35 – 13 with Callum Burn’s conversion making it 37 – 13.

Carlisle added a measure of respectability to the score-line when, for the second time in the match, Connon drifted past three weak non-tackles to run round behind the post and give himself an easy conversion for 37 – 20 , but Alnwick would have the last word.

A searing break by Callum Burn ended inches short of the line and the ball spilled forward in the tackle. Alnwick soon regained possession from a line-out on Carlisle’s 22, and when another rampaging drive from Gothorp was halted, speedy recycling found substitute Cowan rocketing unexpectedly up the narrow side for the final try of the day which Callum Burn again converted for a final score of 44 – 20.