HARROGATE 40ALNWICK RFC 16Despite the gap separating Harrogate’s second place in the league from Alnwick’s current lowly status at second from the bottom, the disparity in the scores should not be taken as too accurately reflecting the tenor of the match or the difference between the two sides, writes Gwyn Thomas.
Overall, Harrogate’s main advantage lay in the sheer size and bulk of their forwards which they deployed to good effect against the lighter Alnwick pack whenever suitable opportunities arose and were the cornerstone of the victory.
Elsewhere matters were more evenly balanced with little to choose between either set of backs both in their attacking and defending qualities. A steady supply of ball from quick recycling and distribution from both set pieces and the breakdown helped Harrogate’s speedy backs to look threatening but were well contained by Alnwick’s defence apart from one crucial lapse in concentration immediately after half time.
With the weather dry, grey and calm and the pitch soggy beneath a healthy covering of grass, Alnwick kicked off and in the opening minutes managed to successfully defend two
5m lineouts arising from penalties. Harrogate continued to maintain pressure with the backs switching play from left to right and from a 5 metre lineout, set up a secondary drive where a sharp pass found fullback Doherty up in the line to score with Fox converting for 7- -0.
Undeterred by this early reverse, Alnwick were giving Harrogate plenty to think about and when a defensive kick was fielded by Moralee in his own half, he was able to release Callum Burn. He in turn gathered his own perfectly weighted chip over the advancing centres and found winger Weddle on his shoulder to outpace the defence for an excellent try which Burn then converted to level the scores at 7-7.
Harrogate had quickly realised that their forwards’ weight advantage would be profitable and when Alnwick conceded a penalty, they could not hold the drive from the ensuing 5m lineout and Heaton drove over for an unconverted try for 12-7.
An almost identical scenario followed within 5 minutes with lock Brady getting the touchdown, and Fox converting to make it 19- 7 at the interval.
Alnwick were still in contention, but were caught napping in the first minute of the second half when Harrogate’s kick-off quickly found its way left to winger Knowles who sprinted through untouched from 30m to score with Fox again converting for 26-7.
Alnwick reduced the deficit to 26-13 through a couple of Callum Burn penalties but hope of further advancement receded as some foolish backchat to the referee cost them a penalty. Once again Harrogate reverted to the tried and tested route of kick, 5m lineout and drive which this time put hooker Driscoll over giving Fox a simple conversion for 33-13.
Alnwick continued to battle gamely and were rewarded with a further penalty by Callum Burn to make it 33-16 some 10 minutes before the end, but it was Harrogate who had the last word with a steal from an Alnwick lineout and swift support play sent substitute Yates over for the try. Fox’s fifth conversion of the afternoon, made the final score 40-16.