DURHAM & NORTHUMBERLAND
AFTER losing out to the weather over the past six weeks, it was like starting the season all over again when Alnwick travelled to that bleak outpost of Yorkshire rugby right on the coast at Redcar.
A combination of a raw, cold wind that numbed the players and the difficulty of getting all the pieces of Alnwick’s play together, allied to Redcar’s determination not to be swept out of the game made for a much tougher afternoon.
After falling behind to two penalties in the opening 25 minutes (0-6), Redcar battled their way up and into the Alnwick 22 area.
A number of very kickable penalties were ignored and a pattern of working the touchline was the home team option.
It finally paid off when they ran a tap-penalty with a heap of bodies going over for a converted try (7-6).
Alnwick worked the ball out into the three-quarters only to find that quick tackling by the Seasiders tied up potential open play.
Alnwick fought back to drive to the Redcar try-line from a bullocking charge by Richard Ellis.
The move broke down when Alnwick were penalised for not releasing the ball.
The opening half finished with the home side ahead by 7-6, with both sides and teams having difficulty with a very soft pitch, which was rapidly cutting up.
The second half saw Graeme Potts collecting the Redcar drop-out to make ground, linking up with Frank Hutchinson, who forced midway into the Redcar 10 metre area.
The ball was worked out to Andrew Shell, who was halted near the Redcar 22.
A long, relieving kick by Redcar pushed Alnwick into their 22, where the home side won a scrum.
The ball went out from scrum-half to Challoner, whose run saw him step into touch before going over for a disputed try (12-6).
Alnwick were stung by this reverse and immediately scored when they shifted the ball away from the claggy midfield out along the three-quarters, where Andrew Shell streaked his way through for a touchdown near the posts for James Bird to add very valuable conversion points to edge in front (12-13).
Redcar pressed forward and Alnwick were penalised.
Back-chat to the referee saw them marched back 10 metres, giving a relatively easy penalty to edge Redcar back ahead (15-13).
Alnwick rang the changes with Matty Milburn, Will Peberdy and David Smith coming in as replacements.
A surging attack by Richard Ellis, Gordon Smith and Dave Smith drove Redcar back in a powerful forward surge. Peter Moralee spun the ball out to Will Massey, who worked the ball out left before it was brought back across and into the midfield.
Frank Hutchinson powered his way through for a try, with James Bird adding the goal points (15-20).
This was better, the move worked well with the power play by the three-quarters, splitting the Redcar defence.
Redcar kicked the restart deep into the Alnwick 22 area.
Their forwards battled away to get over the tryline.
Three surging drives were held before Alnwick were caught offside and the resulting penalty kick was successful to bring the home team score too close for comfort (18-20).
Alnwick, though, had the last move that settled the issue.
A break out from deep in their own half saw Andrew Shell kick through and follow up to just beat two Redcar defenders to score a cracking opportunist try with the conversion being knocked over from wide out by James Bird (18-27).
This put Alnwick firmly back in the driving seat to secure the winning points.
Alnwick: J Bird, G Potts, S Hutchinson, F Hutchinson, A Shell, W Massey, P Moralee, S Bremner, H Sordy, Aa Armstrong, D Whitehead, O Sutheran, G Smith, D Napier, R Ellis, D Smith, W Peberdy, M Milburn.
Saturday’s league match is at Greensfield against fourth-from-bottom Ryton.