Senior Cup defeat a curtain-raiser to season

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With the pre-season warm-ups done and dusted and the start of the league matches still a week away, this Northumberland Senior Cup encounter was something of a curtain raiser for the season.

It provided players and coaches with the opportunity to assess the opposition and get some idea of what to expect when the sides meet for serious league business in three weeks time.

The Alnwick side had something of a new look about it, notably in the front row and among the backs but still retaining a solid core of experienced senior players in the lock and second row positions.

The unfamiliar back line was shorn of considerable experience when a bitterly disappointed James Bird injured a ham-string in the pre-match warm-up, Moralee moving from the wing to cover.

The game proved to be a close, fairly- fought contest and although both sets of backs showed a willingness to run the ball, ultimately, aided by some Alnwick indiscipline, it was Park’s bulkier, well organised pack that saw them through, but not before a commendable performance from the Alnwick eight had given them plenty to think about.

A couple of penalties and line-outs to Park relieved the pressure and a further penalty saw stand-off Richards slot the goal from some 40m out for 0 – 3 after 10 minutes.

Alnwick were level shortly after when stand-off Callum Burn kicked an excellent penalty into the wind from a similar distance, but another penalty from Richards took the score to 3 – 6.

Alnwick pressed from the re-start and a determined surge by the back row took play to Park’s 25 where they gained a penalty which Burn slotted to level the scores at 6 – 6.

The first half was all about penalties and another two before the break made it 6 - 12 at the interval.

Alnwick started the second half badly, seeing Gothorp yellow carded after five minutes in conceding a penalty within his 25.

Park opted to kick for touch and, benefitting from their numerical advantage, used a disciplined catch and drive from the line-out to get up to Alnwick’s line where skipper Dunn got the touchdown and Richards’ lethal boot added the extras for 6 - 19.

Things were not looking good for Alnwick at this point, but they were still in contention as a penalty took them to Park’s 25 and following the line-out, Burn was able to skip past the initial defence and slip a pass to prop Clayton bursting through at speed to touch down near the posts for a well deserved try. Burn converted without difficulty to make it 13 – 19.

Alnwick were now raising their game and although park lost Caulfield to a yellow card, their 14 men held out.

Percy then added another try through replacement lock Thompson. Davison now had the kicking duties and added the conversion to ease Park into a 13 - 26 lead.

Gothorp broke over Park’s 25 in midfield but was prevented from pursuing a promising grubber kick by being tripped by Davison who got a yellow card for his pains.

Alnwick put the penalty into the corner and from the line-out executed a text-book catch-and-drivefor the touchdown. From the touchline it was anybody’s guess who scored but reliable sources revealed it to be Matthew Jolly. Burn slotted the conversion for 20 – 26 as the seconds ticked away.

Next match: Doncaster (League) Saturday, September 5 (Home).