Derby draw as Morpeth hold Alnwick in league opener

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Alnwick RFC 16-16 Morpeth RFC

Morpeth began their league campaign with the short journey to their nearest and greatest rivals Alnwick on Saturday.

In the three fixtures between the sides last seasonAlnwick had been victorious in all matches, albeit with only one score separating the two evenly matched sides.

It therefore would be no surprise to the neutral that this encounter ended in a draw, which in terms of territory, was about the right result,with Morpeth dominating the first half and Alnwick coming back strongly in the second.

Morpeth had a late change with Carl Campbell coming into the second row but the Mitford Road side immediately took the game to Alnwick with their forwards dominating possession and the outstanding Michael Craigs taking the ball up at every opportunity.

Yet for all their possession Morpeth flattered to deceive without being entirely threatening and Alnwick took the lead when with their first intrusion into Morpeth’s half when a charged down kick gave them the opening to score an unconverted try.

It was a sickening blow ,as Morpeth had numerous previous opportunities to clear their lines,and whilst not the same,it was nevertheless a similar scenario that led to last seasons Cup final defeat.

To their immense credit Morpeth came straight back and scored a penalty they richly deserved,firstly scrum half Elliott ,with a dummy and sniping run took play deep into Alnwick’s 22 forcing the home side to concede a penalty that Hornby converted on 20 minutes.

Then from an attacking scrum the dominant Morpeth pack secured a penalty try as they forced Alnwick back towards their own line.This had been set up when Liam Allen carved through the home defence from a set move after good handling.10-5 to Morpeth after 35 minutes.

Yet from the restart Morpeth switched off to allow an opportunist and well taken Alnwick try wide out to equal the score line at 10-10 at halftime.

The second half started brightly for the home side who began to play an effective expansive game with their threatening backline creating space against some dogged Morpeth defence.

Yet with Morpeth opting for a more pragmatic kicking game the game just about petered out as Hornby and Alnwick full back Bird swapped a couple of penalties.

As the game moved into the final quarter there is no doubt that early season fatigue started to kick in with both sides making errors and a draw at the final whistle seemed to be the right result.

Man of the match Michael Craigs