Alnwick 70-10 Guisborough
The last time Guisborough visited Greensfield, they sneaked a 15 – 18 win, but since then Alnwick have matured into a fit and well organised unit.
For this, the opening league match of the new term, generously sponsored by Weir Insurance, Alnwick began where they left off in the spring, emphatically reversing the previous result by running the Yorkshiremen ragged and scoring nine tries in the process.
Some early spits of drizzle cleared away and with the pitch in fine fettle, Alnwick kicked off up the slope with a brisk wind at their backs.
An exchange of penalty kicks led to a further penalty to Alnwick and scrum-half Todd took full advantage with a sharp ‘tap-and-go’ to dart smartly past the defence for the opening try with Bird converting for 7 – 0 after SIX minutes.
Alnwick managed to avoid any damage through conceding two penalties and there was some promising work by Gothorpe and Ali Gray before a Bird penalty after 16 minutes put Alnwick 10-0 up.
Despite these early set-backs, Guisborough’s play belied their claim that they had struggled to put a side together for this fixture. Some good quality support play, interpassing and off-loading coupled with some strong running was giving Alnwick plenty to think about. When lock Lodge crossed for a try following a move down the left the visitors were deservedly back in it at 10 – 5, Pollock missing the conversion.
Alnwick were making some good probing runs but Guisborough responded vigorously and it took a thumping tackle from Bird to halt one of their more threatening incursions.
The Alnwick forwards were getting the best of it in the set pieces, and at a Guisborough line-out on their own 10m line an Alnwick steal took play into mid-field. Their dynamic open-side flanker Hamilton then took up the running and, swatting would be tacklers aside, powered in from some 40m to score and give Bird a simple conversion for 17-5.
From the re-start Guisborough took advantage of three penalties in succession and a well-orchestrated attack up the centre put Muir over to make it 17-10 with Pollock’s conversion attempt rebounding off the post.
In the remaining minutes of the half, Alnwick pressure produced a couple of penalties both being successfully slotted by Bird giving Alnwick a 23-10 lead at the interval.
Alnwick’s handling and speed of thought seemingly gave them an extra gear and with nine minutes of the second half gone an Alnwick scrum on their own 10m line saw centre Ali Gray make a blistering break into Guisborough’s 22. His well-timed pass found Moralee and the winger’s speed took him over near the right corner for 28-10 with Bird adding a tricky conversion for 30-10.
The wind which had favoured Alnwick had now eased but on at least two occasions Guisborough were recalled for scrums as relieving kicks rolled over the dead-ball line.
An Alnwick steal at a Guisborough line-out on half-way put Moralee away at speed and as the defence closed in Bird was on hand to take the pass and score near the posts, converting it himself for 37-10.
In the final quarter Alnwick’s superior fitness began to tell and the flood-gates were about to open. An Alnwick surge was held up on the left but from the scrum the industrious Gothorpe drove over for a try with Bird again slotting the goal for 44-10.
Alnwick were now in full flow with backs and forwards handling confidently and when an attempted Guisborough clearance found its way to Ali Gray no one could touch him as he outflanked Guisborough’s defence to touch down on the left for 49-10, with Bird missing the goal for the only time during the afternoon.
From the re-start some excellent robbing by Hamilton gave Calum Burn the opportunity to show his speed in a 40m sprint through the narrows on the left before running round behind the posts to score and give Bird the chance to get back on track with a simple conversion for 56-10.
Guisborough’s re-start only provided Alnwick with a line-out on half-way and there was no defence against Moralee’s pace as he scooted down the wing before touching down for his second try close enough to the posts so that Bird had no problem converting for 63-10.
The visitors had in truth struggled for most of the second half and there was still one more storm to be faced. Following a penalty on half-way, an Alnwick line-out gave them the platform to set up a mid-field attack and scrum–half Todd nipped round the loose for his second try.
As Bird added the last points of the day for 70-10, gallant Guisborough finally sank beneath the waves. Their journey home must have felt dispiritingly long.