Wirral Eventually Overcome a Stubborn Alnwick
By Andrew Broadbent
In the first ever meeting between these sides, a typical 'first game of the season' saw a few errors but the home team came out on top.
For the first game of the season, Wirral entertained Alnwick who were promoted from North East 1 at the end of last season. Rather than travelling down on the day of the match given the distance between the two clubs they stayed overnight in Runcorn.
From the Wirral team selected, DAN HARVEY suffered an Achilles injury in training on Thursday so Matt Loon
came off the bench to start. This resulted in changes in the back division with Ben Cornford
going to full back, James Annetts
moving to centre. The subs were Ryan Stead
(starting his 20th season in senior rugby), Chris Speed
and John Harris
returning to first team action after some 3 seasons or so.. Wirral played towards the main road in the first half.
The first few minutes saw play contained in mid –field with matters not helped with Wirral dropping three passes in the first 6 minutes. In the 8th minute Alnwick took the lead with a 40m penalty by Alex Robson. At this stage both sides were giving away too many penalties and the game was not flowing. One such penalty gave Wirral a line out some 15m from the Alnwick line and a familiar catch and drive saw the Wirral pack push their opposite numbers over the whitewash with Stuart Gratton
being credited with the touchdown wide out, the conversion was missed. 5-3 (13 minutes).
The lead was short lived as a penalty gave Alnwick a line out in the Wirral 20m area where they built pressure on the Wirral line, which resulted in Alex Robson crossing for a try under the posts as a result of sloppy play and a missed tackle. He duly converted to give the away side a 5-10 lead. Wirral started to raise their game and an Alnwick dropped ball enabled Wirral to progress to 5m from the opposition line and progress could have been made but a player in possession ran into his teammate close to the line enabling Alnwick to clear. On 28 minutes, Rob Pearl
was yellow carded and this enabled Alnwick to again build pressure on Wirral but the Wirral defence held out and eventually cleared. Ryan Stead
came on for Paul Lewis
on 35 mins. In the final minutes of the half, Wirral had a great opportunity to score when the ball was dropped in the corner when in the act of scoring enabling Alnwick to relieve the pressure. With the score at 5-10 the teams turned round with the slight breeze now favouring Wirral.
The second half saw Wirral playing with more determination and were now controlling the ball enabling them to make progress downfield. A James Annetts
half break fed Matt Loon
who was tackled 5 m short but with the forwards controlling the ball, JAMES REEVES forced his way over in the corner and with James Annetts
converting from the touchline gave Wirral a 12-10 lead. The lead then changed hands twice more with an exchange of penalties from Alex Robson and James Annetts
to give a score line of 15-13 after 54 minutes. In this period, Ben Cornford
pulled a hamstring chasing back for a ball and was replaced by Chris Speed
. Alnwick had one final kick for goal from 36m out but 10m from the touchline but this just failed.
The game was starting to open up with both teams finding more space to use their backs but defences were still on top. JOHNHARRIS came on for JAMES REEVES. On 64 minutes came the decisive moment of the game when play in the Alnwick 20m area gave Wirral a 5m scrum, first they went blind then swung play open with Craig Harvey
slipping a short pass to Matt Loon
who went in under the posts unopposed and with the conversion from James Annetts
gave Wirral a 22-13 lead and some breathing space. Paul Lewis
came on for MATT DALTON and JAMES REEVES came on for the injured Sam Broadbent
with John Harris
going into the centres.
Alnwick made their best break of the game but the Wirral defence got back to clear and the home team played the last remaining minutes of this absorbing game in the Alnwick half as they battled for that elusive 4th try bonus point.
Given that the first team have only had a trial game in Douglas a fortnight ago, new coach DARREN HALL recognises that there is improvement to come in the weeks ahead as players return to training and the squad increases. Although the score line suggests close game which it was, Wirral should have won more easily.
Next week the first team are away at Hull so it will be an early start for anyone wishing to travel over to the east coast, look out for details on the website/notice board.