If Alnwick began this game thinking that the nine places separating them from lowly placed Westoe would mean a comfortable afternoon, they got a very sharp reminder that there are no easy games in this league.
Alnwick’s victory can probably be summed up as ‘winning ugly’ and the match was largely a scrappy and untidy affair which might best be described in terms of the prevailing weather - ‘dull and grey with occasional bright spells.’
Westoe hustled and bustled busily throughout and that they didn’t manage to take a share of the spoils was largely their own fault, kicking away possession on several occasions when keeping the ball in hand might have been more profitable.
Alnwick meanwhile seemed to lack the cohesion and intensity of the previous week’s match and their victory was due in no small part to good line speed and solid tackling and competitive battling at ruck and maul, particularly towards the end.
A brisk, cold wind, doubtless a factor in the frequent handling errors on both sides, was behind Alnwick as they kicked off.
The opening moments hinted at Westoe’s intent to use their three-quarters but were behind after only three minutes when Bird kicked a fine penalty from 40m for a 0–3 lead.
Following the re-start, Westoe backs mounted an attack from a scrum on Alnwick’s 10m line but as they fumbled a Todd clearance, skipper Frank Hutchinson was quick to use the advantage to make good ground.
Brown was up in support to take his pass and release winger Moralee who had the speed and acceleration to take him beyond the defence to touch down by the posts and give Bird a simple conversion for 0 – 10.
Although the next 20 minutes began with Bird being stopped just short after a strong run,some poor Alnwick handling and indecision helped Westoe to stage a comeback.
They gained plenty of ball from their industrious forwards who must have been frustrated to see their three-quarters mishandle or kick away possession in attacking situations.
The backs finally got the message and with 30 minutes gone kept the ball in hand for full-back Moffett to score in the left corner for 5 – 10 but put hisconversion attempt wide.
Alnwick had to re-shuffle their backs as stand–off Burn went off with a hamstring injury with Moralee taking over and Gray coming in on the right wing. He was soon called into action as Skipper Hutchinson attacked from a poorly placed Westoe kick. This time Elliot was up in support, his pass releasing Gray who topped off his determined sprint with an excellent diving finish in the corner for 5 – 15 at the interval with the conversion missed.
Westoe built some pressure from the start of the second half opting to drive from line-outs resulting from three penalties in quick succession. Alnwick successfully defended the first two, but as the third catch-and-drive was re-cycled, stand-off Haswell spotted a gap to score with a flamboyant finish and give Moffett a straightforward conversion for 12 – 15.
A Bird penalty almost immediately after the re-start put Alnwick 12 – 18 up and they were soon further ahead as a Westoe penalty failed to find touch. Bird’s powerful run was held on the right but quick recycling got the ball to Moralee who once more zipped round the defence to score by the posts, Bird slotting the conversion for 12 – 23.
In the final quarter only the kitchen sink was missing as Westoe threw everything at Alnwick to keep them mainly in their own half, and for the last ten minutes were virtually camped on Alnwick’s line but couldn’t score as Alnwick’s commendable organisation, discipline and tenacity ultimately saw them through.