Tasty treat as battling Alnwick overcome the Percy challenge

Alnwick-baed MSP and William Hackett have sponsored Alnwick Rugby Club for another season.
Alnwick-baed MSP and William Hackett have sponsored Alnwick Rugby Club for another season.

Alnwick 45-20 Percy Park

This early in the season it is difficult to assess the opposition and what goodies they may bring to the table.

But where old local rivalries are involved, the resulting menu is likely to be quite tasty. Such was the case in this match, generously sponsored by Oakland Homes, with both sides contributing some very palatable fare to an entertaining afternoon.

Although the match was effectively settled by half-time with Alnwick leading 33-3, this was definitely ‘a game of two halves’.

Park might have done better in the first half but poor handling and some basic errors let them down and they were unable to gain much momentum in the face of Alnwick’s line speed and uncompromising first-up tackles.

A change of tactics helped Park out-score Alnwick after the interval to bring some respectability to their score-line.

On a sunny afternoon with the pitch in fine fettle, and, discounting a moderate wind of variable strength and direction, conditions were nigh on perfect as Alnwick kicked off down the slope. Almost immediately Park were penalised but although Bird’s kick drifted wide it was soon evident that both sides were intent on playing open running rugby.

Stand-off Warcup, looking lively and gradually finding his touch after a long lay-off through injury, was already probing for gaps and after 5 minutes, from an Alnwick attack in mid-field his feint drew in defenders and a well-timed pass to Moralee saw the winger’s speed beat the cover for a try which Bird converted for 7-0.

Shortly after, Park got their only score of the half when Harrison slotted a penalty for 7 - 3 but from then until the interval they rarely threatened Alnwick’s line.

Although Park’s heavy pack had Alnwick creaking slightly in the set scrums, No 8 Gothorpe and scrum-half Todd dealt admirably with any untidy ball and it was following a thumping burst from Gothorpe that Moralee was able to scythe infield through Park’s defence to score by the posts, giving Bird a simple conversion for 14-3.

Alnwick’s next try was very much a team effort demonstrating the value of speedy support play. Another thrust by Gothorpe near half-way was carried on to the right by Smith, Hamilton and Moralee who found support from Courty on the inside, and when he was stopped close to Park’s line, skipper Hutchinson was there to plunge over to make it 19 – 3, Bird missing the conversion across the wind.

With 15 minutes of the half remaining, full-back Bird came into the line following an Alnwick scrum on Park’s 22 and although almost halted was able to break the tackles and score under the posts, converting the try himself for 26 -3.

An Alnwick scrum on Park’s 22 was the source for the next try as the ball was whipped smartly to Moralee whose speed and nifty footwork in limited space down the touchline earned him his hat-trick and was near enough to the posts for Bird to convert making it 33-3 at the interval.

With the wind lessening and the slope now favouring them, Park decided that their best bet was to use their hefty pack to gain ground and this tactic proved to be effective. A tap-&-go from the last of four penalties in 10 minutes took play to the left where winger Sutherland scored in the corner for 33-8 with Harrison scuffing the conversion attempt.

Alnwick were coming under increasing pressure but after a line-out following the second of two penalties, Park could not lay a hand on Calum Burn as his searing break from 45 metres took him over for a splendid solo try and 38-8, Bird missing the conversion.

A period of sustained pressure from Park needed Alnwick’s defence at their tenacious best to keep them out but after being camped on Alnwick’s line following a rumbling catch-and-drive, a neat little dink over the loose from Scott was collected by replacement Caulfield for an unconverted try in the right corner for 38-13.

Park were now on a roll and when lock Sutheran had to pay the price of Alnwick’s continued misdemeanours with a yellow card, they used their weight advantage to put Langlands over from a 5 metre scrum, Harrison converting for 38-20.

With only minutes left Park were hoping for a fourth try and a bonus point, but as Alnwick’s re-start went deep into Park’s 22, their speedsters were up in pursuit and on gaining possession in the loose, drew in the defence with a couple forward thrusts before switching play to the right were flanker Courty stormed over to claim a try for the hard-working forwards, with Bird converting for 45-20 on the final whistle.

Alnwick: J Bird, P Moralee, P Robinson, F Hutchinson (Capt), C Burn, J Warcup, H Todd, D Smith, H Burn, P Brown, O Sutheran, M Gray, B Courty, J Hamilton, B Gothorpe. Subs: D.Clayton, S.Hutchinson, G.Smith.

Referee: Graham Crozier.

Next match: Wheatley Hills (away) Saturday, September 24, kick-off 3pm.