North One East
Percy Park 16-Alnwick RFC 27
Clinical Burns hat trick denies Park a share of the spoils
Kieron Sutherland breaks through the Alnwick defence
With the ‘Beast from the East’ baring down on the Preston Avenue Ground, Percy Park took on local rivals Alnwick in a battle between the two Percy Lions. With Park needing vital points in their bid for North One East survival six enforced changes to the side put the ‘black and whites’ on the back foot before a ball was kicked. With a vociferous Alnwick following, the Greensfield side were not shy in believing that they could achieve a five point haul to aid their promotion bid to the North Premier League. However what they met was a very young spirited Percy Park team who very nearly, and if it wasn’t for a try saving tackle on Park centre Phil Morse during the ‘last play of the game’, pricked that Alnwick confidence balloon.
From the kick off Alnwick played the game deep in the Park half and two poor attempts to clear their lines kept Park ‘under the cosh’. With Alnwick intent set a forward pass denied them an early score. With Park absorbing the early pressure confidence grew that they could match the ‘blue and gold side’ and as a consequence Park crept into Alnwick terrority, playing some fine ‘keep ball rugby’ that saw Alnwick transgressing at the breakdown and conceding a number of penalties. And it was from one such penalty that fly half Michael Grove was able to punish the Alnwick side and open the scoring with a fine kick from distance that sailed through the centre of the posts.
The score gave Percy Park real confidence and they started to open up and test the Alnwick defence with some quick flowing rugby. And it was in this area of the game that the supporter could see why Alnwick were pressing at the top of the league. With a back row marshalled by James Hamilton they were quick over the ball slowing down the Park attack and when the ball did go out they were quick to the break down. And it was from one such Park move that saw Park full back Kieron Sutherland scythe through the Alnwick defence to be caught from the cover that came across and behind the Alnwick line. With the tackle made Hamilton was able to rip the ball from the Park hand and set up a counter attack going from right to left that saw Alnwick wing Jonny Burn for the first try of the game.
With the conversion missed Park were quick to restore the lead when Michael Grove was able to penalize Alnwick by slotting over a well taken penalty when the Alnwick defence were caught offside. The game was proving to be great contest and the Alnwick vociferous support was becoming edgy.
The pattern of the game was set with both sides looking for ways to break through the other. From the neutral perspective there was not a lot in it. Park definitely had the better of the forward exchanges and Alnwick the quicker through their counter ‘back’ play. And it was from a Park mistake that Alnwick were able to seize onto the ball and take themselves deep into Park territory forcing Park to reorganise and robustly defend their line. With Alnwick able to retain the ball and the Park defence absorbed Alnwick were able to put in a quick pass to wing Jonny Burn who was able to score his second try of the game. With the try converted Percy Park found themselves six points behind.
With the rucks and mauls extremely competitive it was no surprise when both sides had a little disagreement on the floor. Percy Park were not taking a step backwards. The difference between the sides was marginal. Percy Park would slow down into the contact yet Alnwick would attack the contact allowing the offload to be that bit quicker. And that was the case with the next score. With Alnwick awarded the scrum they were quick off the back and with their backs accelerating onto the ball quick offloads saw wing Scott Atkinson over for a try.
Following the pattern of Alnwick’s first score Park were able to respond almost from the Kick off with another Michael Grove penalty with Alnwick adjudged to have held on in the tackle area.
With the half called and the score 17 points to 9 in Alnwick’s favour all remained to be played for.
As the game resumed Park started the better of the two sides with Michael Grove making a fine break that had the crowd on their feet. With the returning Joey Clark taking the field Percy Park upped the intensity driving deep into the Alnwick half. With Alnwick kicking out of their 22 Park were able to return the ball keeping Alnwick’s defence under stress. And when Park did make a mistake a team mate was there to help out. A flying Liam Blackburn and Sean ‘Gazelle like’ Williamson both at the fore ensuring that the games pendulum kept moving Park’s way.
With Park forward Austin Phillips at the front of all the forward forays Alnwick had to settle for ‘red rugby’ clearing their lines at every opportunity. Park were on top and really needed to convert territory and possession into points. Failure to do so had the supporter feeling that it would only be a matter of time before Alnwick would get back into the game. And so it proved with a scrum in no man’s land Alnwick won possession and that man Hamilton eagerly drove into the Park territory exhibiting real pace. Only a fine tackle by debutant Ross Young prevented a score. With Percy Park attempting to play out of their 22 Alnwick were able to keep Park in their half and the next score came from Alnwick. A fantastic offload in the tackle from the advancing Alnwick full back put Jonny Burn in for his hat trick try and a well-deserved round of applause from the Preston Avenue faithful. With the conversion missed it looked like game over, which was very harsh on the Percy Park side, for up to that point you could see them taking something from this contest.
With Park understandably chasing the game a few errors crept in and one such error was capitalised on by the Alnwick backs, who as the game went on proved to be clinical finishers. With a loose ball on the floor the Alnwick fly half kicked ahead, with an extraordinary pick up he was able to create a further score for the Alnwick team.
With Park’s Dan Ward entering the fray and Austin Phillips supported by his forward pack unwilling to give up the contest, Park threw everything into that area of the game and in doing so forced Alnwick back. A penalty chance was spurned but the Park team kept plugging away and their reward game from a bit of fortune. With the Alnwick forwards detained keeping Langlands and co at bay a bouncy pass eluded all defenders allowing Kieron Sutherland to pick up and with real pace cleave his way through to score. With the try converted Park were 11 points behind and searching for a bonus point loss.
With ball in hand and the crowd lending their support Park were encouraged to play quick rugby and not stop and as a consequence created further opportunities with one clear overlap not taken. The ‘black and whites’ were working hard, yet time was becoming their enemy. With Ward working hard over the ball and wing Ross Young making headway, Alnwick were left to make some last ditch tackles and so it proved with the last play of the game. Centre Phil Morse made a great run into the Alnwick half and with the try line beckoning he was forced toward the touchline by the covering James Hamilton. With the crowd picking their champions the race was on. The roar could be heard at Tynemouth Priory. And it was with a last ditch effort that Hamilton managed to get a piece of Phil Morse to bring him to ground and with the pass back recovered Alnwick saw out the game victors by 27 points to 16.