Battling Alnwick push Blaydon all the way
By Tanya Gibbs
Match reporter: Oli Sutheran
Alnwick renewed an old rivalry with Blaydon last Saturday at Greensfield, hosting their visitors in a league match for the first time since January 1998. After a good performance against The Wirral previously, this was to be a true test of the home side’s mettle against the promotion favourites following their relegation last year. M.G. Courty Builders generously sponsored the day.
The only changes to the Alnwick side saw Young come in the second row for Sutheran and veteran full back Smailes return following his try-scoring exploits of last season, with Captain Moralee switching to wing to replace the injured Atkinson.
The game started brightly for Alnwick; the forwards showed they were up for the scrap in pushing Blaydon off their own scrum ball, and continued their momentum in the loose, with strong carries from Hamilton & Gothorp. With good possession inside the Blaydon half centres Burn & Cuthbert combined to get in behind the defence. The ball was spun wide to Fox in the fifteen channel who in looking to pass to the waiting Mallaburn, was unlucky to be adjudged to have knocked on under pressure from an advancing defensive line. From the resulting scrum the Alnwick defence won a penalty for Blaydon holding on, but fly half Robson couldn’t convert when aiming for goal.
This seemed to wake Blaydon somewhat, who regained control of the ball from the restart and after some good offloads were able to breakaway and score a converted try through winger Appleton (0-7). Alnwick got on the scoreboard shortly afterwards; first a high tackle on the twenty-two enabled Robson to take an easy three points, and then a short time later, from a good break by Bachurzewski, Blaydon prop Lyall was given a yellow card for deliberately slowing the ball down and Robson struck again (6-7).
It looked as though this would be the half time score as Alnwick’s trademark resolute defence kept their visitors at bay for multiple phases. However, unable to stop an offload in midfield the ball was spun wide and number eight Lenderyou was able to finish in the corner to make it 6-14 at the break.
On 50 minutes a penalty gave Blaydon the opportunity to kick to the corner and a driving maul was established which brought their third try (6-21), but from this point onwards it was all Alnwick. First Robson & Philips were replaced by Ord & Smith and a few minutes later Sutheran came on for the hardworking Young in the engine room.
Roared on by a large home crowd Alnwick came back into the game. Their scrum was causing all kinds of problems, and after a penalty for pulling it down, Blaydon prop Lyall received his second yellow card of the day, and therefore a red on 65 minutes. Alnwick can feel aggrieved they were not awarded a penalty try at the following scrum, when driving Blaydon over from 5m out; referee Doig gave only a penalty, and allowed Blaydon to nullify the threat when ex-Falcon & Saracens prop Fearn went off with a sudden injury, thus enforcing uncontested scrummaging.
This was a shame as it ended a key area of the battle for the final few minutes, however Alnwick’s forwards managed to push on and using their numerical advantage hooker Hamish Burn got over from short range for a well-deserved try, converted by cousin Callum from wide out (13-21).
Now into the final few minutes and pushing for any kind of score which would bring a deserved losing bonus point, Alnwick tried the spectacular as the ball was spun wide to Moralee in his own twenty-two. After beating his opposite number around the outside, he was unlucky that a pass infield did not go to hand, and Blaydon lock Borthwick had an easy stroll in to score a fourth try, giving them not only a bonus point but also a scoreline which flattered the visitors somewhat, 13-28.
Overall Alnwick can be very positive about their display and battling qualities against a top side; if they continue to play this way they will be victorious more often than not. Next up is Wilmslow away, who like Alnwick were promoted last season; another long trip and tough fixture, which will hopefully bring about the first league points of the season for this determined Alnwick side.
Alnwick: Philips, H. Burn, Bacherzerwski, Young, Gray, Fox, Hamilton, Gothorp, J. Burn, Robson, Moralee, C. Burn, Cuthbert, Mallaburn, Smailes. Subs: Smith, Sutheran, S. Ord.