ALLIANCE CUP FINAL MATCH REPORT: Towcestrians 17 - 16 Old Northamptonians
Tows end ON's run to grab Alliance Cup in dramatic final
Towcestrians finally ended the record breaking run of 14 consecutive Alliance Cups for Old Northamptonians with a dramatic one point victory under the lights of Franklins Gardens on Wednesday night and avenge last years single point defeat.
This game did not have the high scoring, free flowing feel of last years final but was no less dramatic, Tows picking a big, powerful pack, welcoming back Craig Holton after nearly a season long injury lay off into the pack which contained Chris Kirby, playing his final game for the Tows before retirement along with Joe Chambers on Tows bench.
Both sides started tentatively, testing the defences with periods of phase play mainly in the middle of the pristine Saints pitch, Tows seemed to be gaining the upper hand as they retained possession and played through numerous phases, Chrissie George prominent early on, but an injury to George after 15 minutes, and a penalty conceding at the breakdown soon afterwards saw Tows go behind, the penalty coolly slotted home by the excellent kicking of ON's Alex Rose.
Tows again looked to build through the phases and were soon presented with a penalty of their own, James Falvey, who was excellent in both place kicking and from hand all night, duly brought the scores level. Tows discipline then let them down, the ref choosing to sin bin George's replacement Pepe Nanci for ten minutes following a series of Tows infringements, ON's took the extra man advantage and after making yards mainly through the ON's no.5, who had a great game, crashed over towards the touch line for the opening score, again well converted by Rose to see ON's lead 3 -10 at half time.
Tows Head Coach, Robbie George, rang the changes at half-time and introduced the experience of Liam Wilkinson and Matt Bodily and the young backrower Ollie Kilgannon to give Tows fresh impetus and the Tows started the half with a renewed determination, led mainly by the hard hitting tackling and gainline success of Callum Threlfall, but again an infringement by Tows gave ON's another shot at goal and the lead was extended by Rose to ten points, and Tows really looked up against it when shortly afterward second rower, Sam Sturley, was binned for unnecessarily back chatting to the ref.
Tows threw everything at ON's and were soon back in the game, a period of sustained pressure saw Threlfall break the line on two occasions to set up great field position and he was then on hand to gather the final pass, break a tackle and go over for Tows, circling round towards the back of the posts to dive over close in, ON's no.9 took the opportunity to put a late hit on Threlfall as he scored and all hell broke loose, Threlfall letting the ON's player know exactly what he thought about the late challenge with some swift retribution and he was immediately sent from the field with a straight red, the ON's player also leaving the field on a yellow card and to receive some treatment. The try stood but Tows were now down to thirteen, Sturley still with 5 minutes on his yellow card, James Falvey converted to bring the Tows back within 3 points.
Tows held on until Sturleys re-introduction and went on the attack again, moving the ball left and right making their way upfield, and after a series of rucks close to the ON's line, replacement Hooker, Jordan Brew, burrowed his way over to give Tows the lead, again the difficult touchline conversion was expertly dispatched by Falvey and Tows led 17 - 13
With 10 minutes to go ON's kicked another penalty to close the gap to a single point and shortly afterwards Rose had another chance from some distance out, but was unable to convert, Tows went back up the field and the last few minutes was played in the ON's half, Falvey missing his only attempt with a minute to go, and a final penalty conceded by the ON's was punted deep into the stands to end the game and give Tows the elusive Alliance Cup to jubilant and emotional scenes and give the big support something to really cheer about after a difficult season.
After the game Head Coach, Robbie George, was in reflective mood "of course it's been a hard year, we've been challenged physically and mentally, have had to use over 60 players in the first team squad, and had some long difficult bus journeys home, but this is a special group of players, they've come together, not once taken a backward step and met every challenge, we as a coaching team couldn't be more pleased for the boys, they deserve this and had to dig deep to get it, we'll have a much needed rest now and we look forward to hopefully playing the ON's, who were fantastic to us in defeat and deserve a special mention for that, and some of the other local clubs next season"
Tows Captain, Zac Osborne, was delighted with the win and had praise for his players "ON's are a very good side, and seem to know how to play finals a bit better than we do, it's taken a long while to bring the cup back to Tows and I know I speak for all the players when I say how proud we are to have been part of the first Alliance Cup winning Tows side for 25 years, hopefully it won't be another 25! Next season is another new challenge in a new league but I know the experience of this year and the strength in depth will see us through, a special mention for Matt Bodily, Chris Kirby and Joe Chambers who are hanging up their boots after about 50 years combined service and I can't think of a more fitting finale for those guys to finish their playing careers"
As this is the last Match report of the season, we here at Tows press office would like the thank all the players across all teams, coaches and managers for all their achievements here at Tows, a very special mention and thank you to all our Sponsors and of course, supporters, without whose dedication we would not be the thriving, successful community club we are today, we look forward to your continued support next season.
A special mention to our roving pitch-side reporter, Bob Price, who yet again saw every minute of every first team match this year.
Have a great Summer, see you next season,