A bright and cloudy autumn day with a strong south wind welcomed visitors Lymm to Greensfield for the first home league match of the season.
Both sides had lost their home fixture last season but with final league positions suggesting that the sides were fairly evenly matched the outcome was likely to be finely balanced.
This proved to be very much the case with a slightly bizarre ending where crucial decisions may well have lasting repercussions.
With the benefit of the wind, Lymm’s kick-off on the immaculate well-grassed pitch immediately put Alnwick under pressure, forcing a penalty after two minutes which full-back Nolan, judging the wind nicely, put over for a 0-3 lead.
From the re-start, Alnwick’s sturdy defence capably weathered a further brief period of pressure and a threat on the left wing before progressing into Lymm’s half, but in the process unfortunately lost prop Richard Elliott with a leg injury, Jamie Oliver taking over.
With 15 minutes gone, a penalty afforded Alnwick a line-out on the right just inside Lymm’s half and a strong forward drive set up possession in mid-field, where Callum Burn broke free on the left. In a 40m run, his speed and strength brushed aside would-be tacklers before touching down near the posts for 5-3, Moir converting this excellent solo effort to make it 7-3.
Almost immediately Lymm reduced the arrears to 7 - 6 with a well-struck penalty from Nolan, but good foraging from the re-start and a strong run from Gothorp, who had a storming afternoon in all areas, set up possession in visitors’ territory. This time the ball found the skipper Rob Cuthbert in midfield and again a combination of speed, strength and determination saw him touch down by the posts for another fine individual try which Moir again converted for 14-6.
There was no further score in the 10 minutes before half-time but the second half began with Moir putting over a penalty for 17-6.
Another Moir penalty made it 20-6 with about 20 minutes left and the Alnwick faithful waited hopefully for further scores. These duly came but only from the opposition who came back strongly and used their plentiful possession to good effect.
Threats up the right wing were nullified by some good covering and scrambling defence but when the Lymm backs stretched Alnwick with simple direct passing along the line from a line-out there was no one home to stop full-back Nolan scoring an unconverted try in the left corner for 20-11.
Lymm continued to keep up the pressure and got to a losing bonus point with another Nolan penalty making it 20-14.
Then came the twist in the tale.
With two minutes to go and Alnwick still under the cosh with the scoreboard reading 20-14, Lymm were awarded a penalty in a kickable position in midfield on Alnwick’s 22.
Apparently believing, wrongly, that the score was 23-14 and that they couldn’t win, Lymm opted for a kick at goal to secure a losing bonus point which in fact they already gained.
Although Alnwick had been defending well, the chance of Lymm grabbing a converted try from a 5m line-out to steal the game by a point in the last 90 seconds was at least a possibility.
It is uncertain how the misunderstanding occurred but is believed to be that the young referee Nathan Howarth, who had already had an indifferent afternoon, made an unaccountable error in Alnwick’s penalty tally.
So Alnwick held on to win an enthralling game of two halves but Lymm might well feel a bit hard done by and that there would have no injustice if they had managed to scrape home by a point in the dying seconds.
The rematch in January should be interesting.