Northumberland County Cup Final
Alnwick RFC 16 v Percy Park 21
Drama to the last in a season full of Drama
(The heat of the battle)
With the exception of the most ardent supporter there were many out there who would never have predicted this result; but what a result it was and what a game it was!!...Percy Park certainly kept their best for last…and it has to be said…. if they had played like this all season instead of scrapping at the bottom we would…and I mean would…. have been challenging at the top. They were that good.
To bring a close to a more than emotional season I would like to thank all who have followed this column on our web site and in the local press….It has been dramatic and for those who have been unable to attend games I hope I might have captured some of the drama for you…. I have enjoyed your feedback and banter throughout the season …however for the record I can now say, after this performance…no I am not a raving lunatic!!... This performance has been coming all year…on our travels many have stated that we are one of the better sides in North One East and they weren’t wrong…it’s just a shame that it’s taken all season to show it but…..there is always next season!!......so ‘Come on Park’…belief runs strong on Preston Avenue.
The first half kicked off at a blistering pace with half back pairing Jimmy Baldwin and Richard Chadwick dictating the rhythm of the game. With clever short passes and players running onto him Chadwick had the ‘big guns’ flying into the Alnwick half and punching holes in their defence. Alnwick were clinging on and it was no surprise when Park, having fixed the defence, sent the ball wide for centre Seb Reece to score the first try of the game.
With the kick off retrieved Park retained their same pattern of play, short passes and around the corner. There seemed a real spirit about the Park team and communication was excellent. When Alnwick did secure some possession Park’s organisation ‘in defence’ was very good. Alnwick could not get across the try line. When they faltered Percy Park were there to pick off the loose ball and play their way out of the 22 making good ground. And it was from one such break that the second try came. Kieran Sutherland found some space to ‘motor out’ of the defensive zone before being brought to ground. With the ball recycled Park kept attacking the left hand channel before being stopped deep in the Alnwick 22. A period of ‘pick and goes’ had the two packs battling it out before Park won the contest with Richard Chadwick grounding the ball to score.
The score galvanised the Alnwick team who came back into the game with a vengeance. Scoring an unconverted try. Some big hits from prop forwards Marc Cook and Michael Birkett kept them at bay whilst some astute kicks from Phil Morse had the spectators on the edge of their seats. The big crowd full of the neutral and the partisan were enjoying this one.
A penalty kick from Michael Grove kept Percy Park in the ascendency and on the turn Park were ahead by 13 points to 5.
As the game restarted Sean Williamson, who was having another excellent game, received a nasty injury and had to be replaced. Following a lull in proceedings Alnwick started the brighter with Callum Burn beating the Park covering defence to score in the corner. The try was unconverted. 10-13 to Park.
Two further penalties from former Park favourite James Bird gave Alnwick the lead. 16-13 to Alnwick. The game swung from end to end with no quarter given. Yet it was Park who showed the greater maturity and patience sticking to their game plan which had Alnwick hanging on. And as they did so Michael Grove was able to take advantage by scoring a penalty kick to level the scores.
It was all Park with many an impressed observer. Joe Wafer and Austin Phillips were outstanding. The final try of the game went to Park curtesy of a sublime one handed off load from Josh Hedley, allowing wing Ross Alexander to stretch as far as he could to dab the ball across the line in the tackle. With the conversion missed Percy Park were ahead by 5.
As the game drew towards its close Phil Morse had a long range penalty attempt which fell short.
Alnwick were scrambling. James Bird knocked on, after breaking from the back of a scrum, in front of his posts enabling ‘the black and whites’ to keep the pressure on Alnwick.
With the last play of the game Alnwick were awarded a penalty inside their 22 and instead of taking a ‘tap and go’ in an attempt to keep the ball alive, they opted for the line out. Many a spectator thought that this was a poor option as the Alnwick line out had not be functioning all evening and so it proved with Alnwick losing possession and Park clearing. Game over. Cup won. Well done. Cheer heard at Tynemouth Priory!!
And as we bring the season to an end on behalf of Percy Park may we wish Sean Williamson a speedy recovery. Sean you have had an immense season we all hope you will be back with us in the very near future.
To Michael Langlands…in his final First XV game…..(and what a way to finish) thank you for your dedication, blood, sweat and tears over the years….you will be missed....hope you have an alikado blazer handy!!