GHA 29 ALNWICK RFC 14
Braidholm welcomed the team from Northumberland to this pre- season match. Both sides wished to use the match for final preparation before facing the rigours of competitive action which begins next week. The changeable weather settled just before kick off to provide a sunny afternoon to greet the players. There was a strong cross wind which could affect play and the pitch was in excellent condition.
Both sides prepared carefully with the home side splitting in to two groups as forwards worked on set piece and the backs on passing moves before coming together to run through set drills.
GHA kicked off with a small crowd in attendance. THe visitors gathered the ball and immediately Evan Moir ( who was to be pivotal in much of Alnwick’s attacking strategies throughout the match) put in a long diagonal ball behind the GHA defence. However over eagerness in pursuit led to a penalty for GHA for an offside by the visitors. Max MacFarlane put good distance on his kick and took play up to the Alnwick ten metre line. Michael Fox secured the ball at the tail of the lineout.( Alnwick were to throw the ball long at the lineout on a number of occasions during the match with mixed success. The superb lineout skills of Adam Kerr often negated the lineout as an attacking ploy for the visitors). However Alnwick recovered possession from a breakdown and Evan Moir again drove the ball behind the GHA defence to take play up to halfway. In a series of drives led by messrs Farmer and Bird for the visitors GHA were forced to put in a number of tackles to stymie Alnwick advances and as a result play tended to crab across the halfway line. Such attempts to drive by the visitors tended to lack success by their inability to recycle the ball quickly , allowing the home forwards and defence to regroup and redeploy. As a result the first fifteen minutes really failed to establish any dominance by either side.
In a sudden break from good scrum ball Max MacFarlane put in a searching kick deep behind the Alnwick defence and Jake Woods desperate attempts to gather the ball in his twenty two are were prevented by the GHA backs engulfing him. Despite this Alnwick managed to clear the ball towards their own ten metre line only to see Scott Derrick gather the ball and showing scalding pace power through the astonished visitors to score in the corner. After sixteen minutes the score was: GHA 5 ALNWICK 0. THe conversion failed and Alnwick restarted in an attempt to overcome this setback. The home side gathered the ball and fed to Max MacFarlane whose long kick from halfway resulted in a scrambling Alnwick defence having to restart from under their posts. For several minutes play moved back and forth with both sides defences managing to blunt initiatives . At this point Max MacFarlane was yellow carded for a high tackle and Alnwick seemed to sense that this man advantage was a great chance to gain a dominant position in the match. WIth the hot conditions affecting both sets of players, Alnwick redoubled their efforts. As we moved toward the half hour mark, Alnwick began to retain possession, looking to suck in the home forwards before releasing ball to their backs. In one such swiftly executed move Sam Eggleston engineered some room inside his ten metre line and headed for the line only to be cut down with an excellent tackle by Chris Hyde The visitors reclaimed the ball and moved it inside using messrs Farmer ,Michie and Bird to try and drive through a determined home forward defence with Adam Kerr and Dario Ewing and Jack bruce putting in a lot of positive work to prevent Alnwick progress. However gradually Alnwick were making some progress forcing play into the GHA half. In a break as we moved towards the thirty fifth minute of the half Alnwick fought their way to deep inside the GHA twenty two area and indeed progressed to the five metre area where several strikes were met by resolute home tackling. Unfortunately at this point in the match there was a further injury which necessitated a lengthy break in proceedings . There were to be a number of such stoppages in the match which robbed both sides of the ability to build continuity and gave the match a stop start feeling at times. The home side , as we approached half time steadied the ship and cleared the danger from ALnwick who seemed frustrated that they had failed to take advantage of the man advantage. Once again Alnwick in a dangerous are went for a long throw which misfired and from the resulting scrum, Dario Ewing burst through the visitors defence to score to loud cheers from the home support. The try was converted and suddenly the score was: GHA 12 ALNWICK 0. Almost on half time, the home side pressed from gathering the resart and as the ball was spun wide a superb pass by Aminio Bogidrau( who along with his colleagues in the line asked questions of the Alnwick defence all game) to Dario Ewing allowing him to once again fly through the visitors defence and score to cause consternation in Alnwick ranks. The conversion just failed and the score at half time was: GHA 17 ALNWICK 0. It had been a stop start half due to lengthy stoppages to deal with injuries. This tended to rob both sides of continuity . However of the two sides it was GHA who at the interval had managed to capitalise on the momentum that they managed to build.
The match restarted with several changes to both sides line up. Interpretation of player involvement was not aided by replacements wearing the shirt of a previous player or wearing a jersey with no number at all.!! From the restart a visibly more confident home side gathered the ball and began to move it across the ten metre area. In an astonishing break of speed, guile and skill, Luca Bardelli made a mesmerising run through the despairing tackles of the visiting players to look likely to score only to be finally stopped at the Alnwick five metre line. Despite desperate attempts to clear this danger, GHA won the ball and recycled the ball . The home side were awarded a penalty and in a quick movement the ball was shipped to Luca Bardelli who flew over the line to score. After four minutes of the half and a failed conversion the score was: GHA 22 ALNWICK 0.
Despite this further set back Alnwick took the game back to the home team. It was a feature of the match when a period of fluid play was possible to see all the GHA backs (marshalled by messrs Goudie and MacFarlane) more than prepared to tilt at the Alnwick back line. This was accomplished through feints, long passes and some inspired breaks with close passing support. They did not all come off but it bodes well for the season to see an offensive minded back line who also put in some excellent defensive tackles throughout the match. In one such break around the seventh minute mark an electric break by Amena Caqusuau brought gasps from the crowd and looks of utter panic from the Alnwick rearguard as Amena spun one way then another to bamboozle the visitors and take play deep into Alnwick territory. The move was stopped and Alnwick worked hard to win the ball in the loose and suddenly from desperate defence had regrouped and moved the ball swiftly deep inside the GHA half. Suddenly the home side were scrambling to defend and with patience and skill and equally importantly well concealed ball, the visitors drove over the line to score. The score as we moved towards the fifteenth minute of the half and following an excellent conversion by the hard working Evan Moir was: GHA 22 Alnwick 7. There was now a spring in the step of the visitors and a curious lethargy amongst the home side which saw Alnwick begin to increase pressure on the home side. Play moved at pace between both twenty twos with break outs being the order of the day. A fantastic break by Luca Bardelli was finally curtailed by the Alnwick defence and indeed the visitors were awarded a penalty as the ball went loose and the home side in their eagerness to regain possession stepped offside.As we approached the twentieth minute of the half, the home side began to recover their composure but still had to cope with a brave Alnwick side who refused to give up. There were again line breaks from each side but whilst initial yardage was made both defences closed down the move. All the GHA forwards were working very hard collectively in loose and set piece to deny the visitors clean fast ball. Several penalties around the halfway line were awarded over the next few minutes to the visitors for not releasing the ball, or coming in on an offside position. As we approached the half hour of this half, Alnwick from a penalty kicked long into the GHA half. From the lineout they secured the ball and rumbled and recycled and drove several times before half of the Alnwick pack went over the line to score. The try was converted and the score was now: GHA 22 Alnwick 14. Animated conversations amongst the home side seemed to help refocus the players from Braidholm. There was an immediate tightening of passes and closer support for ball carriers and a renewed awareness that Alnwick were making a real effort to turn the match. In the last ten minutes the home side began to win possession and territory but one or two misplaced passes at crucial times saw moves break down. Despite this the home side continued to press and look for ways to increase their score. After thirty five minutes of the half suddenly after a lot of pressure from the home side it was Alnwick who broke through and moved into the GHA half. With a well worked move , Alnwick moved menacingly towards the GHA twenty two metre area only to fumble a pass at the vital time. As had happened throughout the match an individual alert to a space appearing broke from his own half. Rory MacFarlane totally outstripped the wrong footed visitors and ran the length of the pitch to score. The try was converted and the score was now: GHA 29 Alnwick 14. The match finished with every player having contributed to the match with effort commitment and no little skill.
GHA face a daunting start to their League Programme over the next few weeks and will have found this run out a valuable exercise to give players game time. There is talent in this group of players with a combination of battle hardened and bright new prospects making up the squad. Their courage and commitment and crucially their decision making will require on field leadership to help them cope with what lies ahead.
ALNWICK : D.SMITH A.BLACKETT M.JOLLY J.YOUNG J.BIRD T.MICHIE C.FARMER B.GOTHOP S.ORD e.MOIR O.DAVIDSON R.CUTHBERT B.PETTIFER S.EGGLESTON J.WOODS R.ELLIOTT D.THOMPSON K.INGLIS A.FRANCIS A.SPARK C.REDPATH
GHA : C.HYDE S.DERRICK A.BOGIDRAU M.MAcFARLANE C.STEPHEN A.GOUDIE R.MACFARLANE M.FOX A.KERR R.HAY T.MCKENNA D.EWING J.BRUCE R.CAMPBELL J.LOW C.WILLIAMSON S.CALLAGHAN J.MCENTAGGART L.MCCUTCHEON A.CAQUSUA G.ADAMS B.FORSYTH L.BARDELLI G.DRUMMOND
REFEREE: MR SIMON ALDBRIDGE
ASSISTANT REFEREES : MR DAVID GORDON MARSHALL MR IAN ROBIN