Durham & Northumberland Division One
ALNWICK’S continued run of success saw them overcome visitors Gosforth when they ran in 10 tries, four of which were converted.
Captain Andy Shell led the way with a splendid tally of five to take his total up to 33, with a brace apiece from Ali Gray and Jim Hamilton while Richard Ellis also nailed a touch-down.
Conversion points were added by James Bird who has now tallied some 242 points.
Gosforth showed up brightly in the opening minutes, driving into the Alnwick 22 area where their challenge at both line-out and scrum was well held. A potential score was on the cards when Bird’s clearance kick was charged down but, with the ball going dead, the chance was lost.
Alnwick won the restart ball, drove Gosforth back, won penalty line-out where Hamilton made a scything break to link up with Gordon Smith to keep pressure on the Gosforth defence.
A penalty kick attempt by Bird drifted wide, but with Alnwick winning back the ball from the Gosforth drop out and spinning the ball wide, a kick through from full-back Bird saw Andy Shell outpace the Gosforth cover to go over for the opening try which was not converted, (5-0).
A further try quickly followed, winning ruck ball at a line-out on the Alnwick 10-metre line, Gray burst through on a 50-metre run to go over for the touch down near the corner flag, (10-0).
Alnwick’s pressure continued. Gosforth lost scrum ball. A breakthrough from Bird then saw Alnwick work the line-out. A tap down to Stephen Bremner was carried on by Ian Gray who linked up with Hamilton who powered through for a converted try, (17-0).
Alnwick continued to move Gosforth from one side of the pitch to the other, constantly probing at the Gosforth cover, driving hard at both line-out and scrum.
Alnwick steadily moved play upfield from a Gosforth penalty line-out after the visitors had made a rare visit inside the home 22 area.
Graeme Potts broke up the touch-line, was held and the ball came back to Mick Mather who put in a long raking kick to the Gosforth posts.
Alnwick carried to pin the Gosforth full-back.
Winning the scrum on the Gosforth five-metre line, the ball was whipped out along the three-quarters where Gray broke through for another converted try, (24-0).
Gosforth managed to drive play up to the Alnwick 22 where they were awarded a penalty to record their only success when the kick went over right at the end of the opening half, (24-3).
Alnwick stormed away in the second half, driving on from pick-and-drive plays to push Gosforth back into their 22 area.
Tight scrummaging saw Alnwick work the Gosforth forwards back up to their five-metre line. A hasty clearance by Gosforth went straight to Bird who brought play at pace across the pitch to link up with Andy Shell who rounded off the move with a try near the corner flag. Bird’s attempt to add conversion points saw the ball falling short, (29-3).
After the forwards had battered their way up into the Gosforth half, Hamilton broke away to steam over for another try. No conversion, (34-3).
Gosforth livened themselves up and took advantage of a penalty line-out on the Alnwick five-metre line. They drove hard to get over but were held up.
Gosforth were thencaught offside giving Alnwick the chance to push play back for a penalty line-out on the Alnwick 10-metre line.
Ellis picked up following an Alnwick scrum and raced away on a 60-metre run with Andy Shell up in support. A superb dummy pass to the Gosforth full-back saw him go over for a cracking try. (39-3)
Alnwick made changes with Jonty Johnson and Angus Todd coming on.
Alnwick’s brand of a fast opening game by the three-quarters together with sound forward play had Gosforth at sixes and sevens.
Alnwick went further ahead following a Bird/Ali Gray sharp move which saw Andy Shell race through for his fourth try, (44-3).
Alnwick’s forwards were revelling in their freedom. It was no surprise when they combined to put Hamilton away. His pass out to Andy Shell saw the wing race through for his fifth and final try with goal points being added by Bird, (51-3).
Gosforth were by now a shattered force, failing to pressure at a penalty line-out inside the Alnwick 22, losing a scrum where Ellis again broke away before slipping the ball inside for Andy Shell who powered his way on a 50-metre run to link back to Hamilton to finish off the move with a converted try, (58-3).
It was a thoroughly workmanlike performance with forwards and backs working like a well-oiled machine.
Team: J Bird, A Shell (C), A Gray, F Hutchinson, G Potts, N Mather, I Gray, P Brown, H Sordy, S Bremner, A Armstrong, A Bell, G Smith, J Hamilton, R Ellis, A Johnson, Ed Shell, A Todd.
On April 28, there will be a promotion play-off match at Alnwick when the club will play against the Yorkshire runners-up, either Keighley or Driffield.
To attend a pre-match lunch, confirm with Bob Bingham, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the list at the club house.