Northumberland Senior County Cup Quarter Final
Percy Park RFC 11v Alnwick RFC 33.
Park endeavour to no avail
From the ‘off’ Percy Park were behind due to fleet of foot and a deft shimmy from Alnwick scrum half Peter Moralee. A shimmy which culminated in a try wide to the right and almost on the ‘flag’. Howls of protest emitted from the famous North Stand, as many an indignant and partisan home supporter believed the ‘finisher’ had got away with an audacious double movement. It didn’t matter the try was given and the kick missed. Yet in that moment, less than a minute from the kick off, the 2019-20 season ignited with some uncontrolled passion that dispersed the long summer months and triumphed the return of rugby to the hallowed turf of Preston Avenue. Percy Park endeavoured against a very good Alnwick side and although they did not avail there were plenty of sparks to suggest exciting times ahead.
Park’s response was good spending time in the Alnwick 22 as they took the ball in and recycled left and right probing for a weakness. Only a try saving tackle on wing Michael Grove prevented the home side from restoring parity. A Mark Barry hit showed purpose. It was all Park. Toby Davidson and debutant ‘9’ Jack Peter were performing well as a half back combination, constantly putting Park on the front foot. Alnwick needed to take the sting out of the game and that duly arrived courtesy of a well taken penalty and a converted try.
Alnwick inched their way into the Park 22 with some cute offloads and good lines. Parks defense stood resolute. An Alnwick player then ‘took the ball in’ to create movement around the corner and as he did so a number of Park players obstructed his path on the floor and from the spectators point of view looked to have got ‘over’. Nevertheless the referee had different ideas and called the penalty.
Albeit I am not sure what the call was for, however Park only had themselves to blame as they had let Alnwick back into the game with a series of silly penalties that had allowed the Northumberland side to kick their way into the heart of home territory.
The try came from Park coughing up the ball (rather softly) and setting Alnwick away. Even with long serving and seasoned veteran James Ponton restored to ‘the row’ Park were unable to stem the quick offload game which saw Alnwick cross near to Parks left hand post. Conversion taken Park were 15 nil down.
Percy Park’s front row of Cook, Dan Ward and Adam Hay were noticeably robust in the shove and skullduggery of the coal face, which left ex Tynedale front row Ritchie Elliott cheek down to some freshly grown turf, not once, but twice. With a kick in front, Toby Davison added the three and at the turn Park were behind by 3 points to 15.
Karl Thompson was on with Ponton in the engine room. With the back row of Langlands, Dunn and Wilson looking mobile, orchestrated by player coach Ash Smith at 10, the Park faithful were relishing a second half ‘come back’. The only doubt was raised by an old sage who had seen Smith struggle to put his top on. The act was followed by a wry comment on the number of Cannoli’s (sugared treats) devoured on the player’s recent honeymoon to Sicily. Never mind, the faithful are always hopeful and with hope the second half commenced.
Alnwick started the brighter although Percy Park really should have scored, missing a golden opportunity as a Smith break saw the offload go to ground with the try line begging. With ball picked up the subsequent play saw Park crab to the left and run out of grass. Yet in the buildup the referee had seen a Alnwick infringement for ‘offside ‘and back we went to an easy kick in front of the posts.
Park were ‘spikey’ and Alnwick complained. The referee was ‘chatting’ and taking the ‘time off’. We had a contest.
Park’s undoing came through some indiscipline within their own 22, allowing Alnwick the benefit of two quick-fire penalties. An unconverted try swiftly followed. A try that owed much to a missed tackle, some serious offloading and a little artful guile in the hidden area of the ruck. In football terms you would describe the Alnwick try as a ‘very good goal on the counter attack’. Their movement was rapid and expeditious. With momentum gained Park could not stop them as a blue and gold shirt dabbed the ball over the line. The conversion was missed and Percy Park had a mountain to climb at 21-6 in arrears.
To make matters worse Alnwick extended their lead following an intercepted pass when Park looked fairly safe. Having been given the gift the Alnwick player made ground before being tackled, yet his offload was good and with a supporting player on the shoulder to receive. In that instant and in that passage of play the difference between the two sides was laid bare. Alnwick were quick to support and the offload accurate to hand. When Smith went through, with the line begging, Park were struggling to get to his shoulder. With the offload made our ball went to ground. Small margins and I guess the difference between levels 5 and 6. Yet add that to our game….and…..
Try converted and the faithful needed something to add a ‘shot of cheer to the beer’. Enter Michael Grove. A quick ‘tap and go’ from Ali Blair had the Alnwick team scurrying back to their 5 metre line. As Blair went to ground support got over the ball and Smith was able to send a pass to his right. Deft hands saw the advancing Grove finish with some aplomb and pace into the corner. With the conversion out wide the attempt drifted wide and the game finished with Alnwick ahead by 33 points to 11. Next up for Alnwick in the cup will be Northern in the semifinal.
Next week Percy Park travel to visit our old friends Bradford and Bingley at Wagon Lane. A visit that will commence hostilities in North One East. Kick off is at 3. News from the Bees camp is that last year’s Ants Posa has left the club to join Rotherham Titans. Posa has been replaced by Hugh Gumbs who was last year’s Assistant Coach.
As I leave you this week please spare a thought for past captain Jonny Dubois whose partner heard a loud grinding noise as she continued to leave a petrol stations forecourt….it is enough to say that the said vehicle now rests in a garage for some serious repairs….Any donations to provide Jonnys car with a new wing mirror and side panels will be gratefully received!!