Agonisingly close win!
Report by James Collins
After a week off last week, no 1st team game, and an almost suspiciously quiet week, the side was pretty much as selected on Tuesday night. What are the chances?
Alnwick turned up with a very strong looking team. A couple of their boys coming back from injury from higher teams meant that they had strength in depth, they always do, and we always know we are in for a hard game when we’re playing them, and this was no different.
Alnwick started strongly, and in the first half we spent long periods defending our line. Our defence stood up magnificently, and when we had the ball ourselves we always looked dangerous. Unfortunately, we were perhaps a bit over enthusiastic at times and mistakes in protecting our ball were made when we started to get close to scoring. To be fair, Alnwick were very well drilled and aggressive in defence and it possibly took us a while to get used to the speed and intensity of the game.
We scored some good tries in the first period, through Paul ‘Evergreen’ Lindsey (Do you get it? because he’s really old and Will Young’s debut song was called ‘evergreen’, so it works on 2 levels. Man, I’m clever), Conner Anderson and Matt Rawlinson. Matts try in particular was great to watch after Dan Fenwick stole a ball off the back of an Alnwick Line out and set off through a gap like a rampaging giraffe, sidestepping, handing off and dodging defenders, leaving bodies in his wake. The last man brought him down (how do you bring down a giraffe? Tranquilizer dart?), but he managed to get the offload to Matt at the right time, who had tracked his run brilliantly off the wing and strolled in under the posts for the score.
It’s great to have Matt back, he’s been away from the club for a while now, but he’s always been a really great player and he’s certainly made an impact since he’s come back. His combination of aggression, pace and rugby intelligence is a rare thing and he’ll be a major asset as his fitness continues to improve.
Alnwick continued to press and they scored some decent tries of their own. Our defence was too stretched after they had used their forwards to hammer the line, we got sucked in and they were intelligent to see a chance out wide, leaving our outside backs with little chance.
We were up at half time, but we knew they would come back at us. We started the second half with a determination to finish the job, and we scored a couple of quick tries to increase our lead. Conner Anderson was in Superb form and scored 2 more, one from a quick tap penalty where it felt like he had sidestepped all the Alnwick players at least twice on his way to the try line.
At this point the score was something like 31-17 and it felt like we might have had the game won. Unfortunately, after scoring his 3rd of the day, Conner got a yellow card for not supporting himself when attempting to get at the ball in a ruck. It may have felt harsh on Conner, but the ref (who I thought was very good throughout) had warned us about continued infringements, so it was coming and the pressure told. Probably a fair call.
We continued to defend well, but the man advantage was telling, and many of the lads were tiring after expending so much energy defending in the first half. We used the bench as much as we could, and everyone made a positive impact, but Alnwick had their tales up and were battering our line. We had to go to uncontested scrums after Alnwick ran out of fat lads, which didn’t help as they were able to get the ball from the scrum under no pressure from us.
They scored a couple but missed a crucial conversion. We continued to defend as if our lives depended on it and held the ball up over the line no less than 3 times. It wasn’t the actions of one or two players that kept them out, it was a team effort with every single player putting their body in harms way to defend the line.
It was hard to watch at times, but a hard-fought win against a very good team is the best feeling you can get on a rugby field and we got what we deserved in the end.
It was agonizingly close, but we managed to hold on for a 31-29 win. 5 tries each and 1 kick in it.
We’ve had some close games this year, we were 3 point from a result against Ashington and had to settle for a draw against Morpeth a few weeks ago so this was especially sweet, coming against what was probably the best team we’ve played this year.
MOMs were Conner Anderson and Luke Nuttall.
Conner was superb all day, we know he always has the ability to beat people with pace, but he played at centre on Saturday he showed his distribution was very good as well. His goal kicking was very good too, and he scored 21 point with 3 tries and 3 conversions.
Luke was making his debut at this level, but for the first 50 minutes or so was our best forward, making some brilliant bullocking runs, but also some very notable tackles. He hits people hard when he needs to, but a couple of his tackles when he was tracking back and their winger was looking odd on to score were technically very good as well, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
It seems harsh to single anyone out, because the effort from everyone was immense. It was great to see so many club regulars, officials and 1st team players come and support both the teams playing at home on Saturday. Although the 3rd team were edged out in their game it was another superb performance by all accounts and I’m sure the support made a difference to both sides.
Lastly, we must thank Alnwick. I know these reports tend to focus on the Gateshead performance, but Alnwick were a top team, who played really hard and with aggression, but fairly too. On another day they could have got the Win, but they were gentlemen in defeat. They had also agreed to move the game from last weekend after we had some problems with player numbers. They could have refused and taken the points, so we definitely owe them one for that. Another win for Rugby Values!
Hartlepool Rovers away next weekend, let’s keep the momentum going with a good turn out at training please lads!