Huddersfields YMCA 15-13 Alnwick
For the second time in three weeks Alnwick returned from a visit to Yorkshire having lost by two points as the result of a penalty.
They will no doubt feel a trifle disappointed at this defeat and although a losing bonus point is some small consolation they may come to view this result not so much as a match lost but rather as an opportunity missed.
Wins for the two top teams, West Hartlepool and Penrith, mean that they increased the gap between themselves and the chasing pack led by Alnwick with Pocklington and Bradford & Bingley hard on their heels. A win would have given Alnwick a little breathing space but results elsewhere simply meant the status quo remained unaltered.
Huddersfield will be well pleased to have eventually emerged as winners from this inglorious contest which was for much of the time an untidy affair littered with handling errors by both sides.
Alnwick as ever played with enormous heart but ultimately lost this forgettable tussle because it was one of those days when nothing seemed to go quite right whereas things went slight better for the opposition.
Alnwick’s pre-match preparations were probably not helped by the 3.00pm start agreed to accommodate the hosts’ arrangements, which meant that the second half was played under floodlights. However there can be few complaints or excuses and on the day the game was won by the side that chose the better options and made fewer mistakes at crucial times.
Huddersfield kicked off on a raw, dank, grey afternoon with not so much as a breath of wind, with the playing surface left soft after an earlier snow covering had thawed.
Alnwick couldn’t have asked for a better start as they crossed for a try after three minutes. On winning a line-out on Huddersfield’s 10 metre line on the right, Bird came into the line to carry play into the opposition 22 where Skipper Hutchinson and namesake Sean were on hand before left winger Mallaburn held a difficult pass to touch down unopposed for 0 – 5 with Bird’s conversion going narrowly wide.
Huddersfield’s response was not long in coming as from the re-start Alnwick knocked on and were immediately under pressure in the set scrum and conceded two penalties for offside in fairly quick succession. Alnwick successfully defended the 5 metre line-out following the first of these but were unable to contain a catch-&-drive from the second penalty and lock Robertson got the touch down with Piper converting for 7 – 5.
Attacks by both sides were cancelled out by solid defending but Alnwick had a clear opportunity to attack from their own half when Mallaburn fielded a high kick. Moralee was clear in acres of space but Bird ‘s woeful pass was forward conceding two set scrums where Alnwick continued to have problems.
When Huddersfield took one against the head, a good break to the left stretched the cover and Piper crossed to make it 12 – 5 but missed with his conversion attempt.
Almost directly from the re-start two penalties went against Alnwick but from a line-out following the second Alnwick were able to break out as the ball went loose. Winger Mallaburn won the race to hack on with Sean Hutchinson repeating the process to get to Huddersfield’s line where Warcup was able to scoop up the ball and score for 12 – 10 at half-time with the conversion missed.
A strong run up the left by Mallaburn early in the second half was encouraging and Alnwick were soon under pressure but it was honours even in some scrappy loose play before a couple of penalties took play into home territory.
As Alnwick attacked from a line-out on half-way a further penalty for a high tackle enabled Bird to make it 12 – 13 with a kick from 30 metres.
The lead lasted some 5 minutes before substitute Wilson put over a penalty for 15 – 13.
The introduction of Phillips at tight head helped stabilise Alnwick’s scrum but it became very much a rear-guard action as they repelled several surges on all fronts before finally earning a last attacking opportunity with a line-out on the home 22 .
With minutes left they set themselves up for a catch-&-drive but these Yorkshiremen are a wily bunch and didn’t engage thus catching Alnwick offside and clearing the danger with the penalty kick.
From then on it was simply a matter of the home forwards keeping the ball and winding down the clock for a win that they just about deserved.
Team: J Bird, R Mallaburn, S Hutchinson, F Hutchinson(Capt), P Moralee, J Warcup, H Todd, D Smith, H Burn, C Phillips, O Sutheran, M Gray, G Smith, J Hamilton, B Courty. Subs: P Brown, D Clayton, P Robinson.
Referee: Gary Malpas (East Midlands Society)
Next match: Malton & Norton (Home) on Saturday November 26, Kick-off 2.15pm.