Superior fitness is telling factor

Stockton 22 Alnwick 37

Durham and Northumberland Division One

For years, Alnwick and their supporters have had to endure some disappointing results down on Teesside as they have taken on Stockton.

Renowned for their robust forward play, they were always a thorn in the Northumbrians’ side. In recent years, however, that has not been the case. So it proved on Saturday when league leaders Alnwick took on the home side, who are lying in fourth place.

But it was no easy contest and, in the end, a fitter Alnwick side ran out winners and earned another bonus point in the bargain and that was without top-scorer and captain Andrew Shell, who had dislocated a finger earlier in the week during training.

Stockton started well and, after six minutes, Alnwick were seven points down after a try by Farrell and a conversion by Good (7-0).

Seven minutes later, Alnwick found themselves in the mire again. After a driving maul by Stockton, the ball went wide for Phin to score in the left-hand corner (12-0).

After this poor start, Alnwick settled down and got two quick tries to get them back into the game.

It was due to the talented Alnwick backs. The first from Ed Shell out on the left-wing then another by Ian Gray after an excellent break by the veteran Currie (12-10).

On 30 minutes, Stockton came back at the blue and golds to score. After some robust play by the Stockton forwards, Phin went over to score his second try in the right-hand corner. The conversion was missed by Good (17-10).

Both teams were playing entertaining rugby and, in the 38th minute, Alnwick gave away their first penalty.

For Alnwick to play in a game without giving away a penalty for 38 minutes is worthy of note in itself. Good missed the kick.

Stockton started the second half very strongly and, on 46 minutes, after some lovely play, prop Cunhan scored an unconverted try (22-10).

Alnwick came back into the game after Stockton lost the ball on their put-in and Alnwick scrum-half Ali Gray raced away to score and it was converted by full-back Weddell (22-17).

On the hour, Stockton’s player-coach received a yellow card for persistent obstruction. Alnwick converted the penalty through Weddell to make the score (22-20).

Stockton, down to 14 men, found themselves under the heel of the Alnwick forwards and, after a lot of pressure, they caved in and Alnwick scored a converted try with stand-off O’Grady getting the touch- down and Weddell converting (22-27).

The home side were soon back at full strength only for Conway to be yellow-carded for a high tackle on the Alnwick prop Johnson.

Alnwick kicked the resulting penalty again through the boot of Weddell (22-30).

Forward play by Alnwick took its toll on a weakening Stockton pack and they scored another converted try, with Ed Shell touching down and Weddell adding the points (22-37).

Alnwick have now won their last three games at Stockton, after years of defeats. In a very enjoyable game, Alnwick came away worthy winners to stay top of the league with a nine-point lead over Guisborough who have a game in hand.

Alnwick: J Weddell, G Potts, A Gray, F Hutchinson, E Shell, N O’Grady, I Gray, D Hamblin, H Sordy, B Botham, D Oliver, M Currie, G Smith, R Ellis, A Alexander. Replacements Al Johnston, A Bell, S Ord.