The Woldsmen travelled to Northumbria on Saturday to face Alnwick. They are always one of their toughest opponents in this league, particularly on the away fixture. Driffield had lost their last 2 matches and Alnwick had won theirs, so the hosts were likely to be in a confident mood.
Changes to the Driffield line-up brought Robinson onto the wing. Dodds returned after injury, for the unavailable Cooper. Ramsden made his first start of the season on the open-side. Murray returned to the bench, with Zavatti and James Dinsdale.
Driffield started confidently with the ball in hand, and retained their early possession. Their play in contact was well-drilled, but it was apparent the Alnwick defence was able to match them, particularly in mid-field where their centre pairing looked strong. Early on Alnwick made a burst across the Driffield 10 metre line. Gray was tackling back, but was adjudged to have been high, and was immediately yellow-carded. The tackle appeared quite innocuous, but it was exactly what Driffield didn’t need so early on. Robinson moved to scrum half to fill the gap. Alnwick smelt blood, and from a breakdown close to Driffield’s line, their huge tight head prop barged over for the opening try which was converted. DRIFFIELD 0 – ALNWICK 7
A heavy drizzle had set in and added a degree of difficulty to proceedings. Driffield however looked confident under aerial assaults. Their scrum remained solid, despite being down to 7 men. But Alnwick were in no mood to miss out on their numerical advantage. They were urged on by their ex-Driffield man, scrum half Simon Ord. Alnwick kicked to the corner from a penalty. They caught and drove from the line, and Ord burrowed his way over for a good try, which was converted. DRIFFIELD 0 ALNWICK 14
Driffield had paid heavily for their yellow card. However, in typical manner stuck to their game plan and fought their way back. They started to win their share of the ball, but they definitely struggled to make use of it. There were some simple mistakes; penalties for holding onto the ball on the floor, an error on a shortened line, gifting Alnwick with the ball each time. These things can be put right. This all made progress arduous for Driffield, against tough opposition. With Gray back on, and harassing everywhere the mood was raised in the drizzle. Dearing struck a good 40 metre penalty to get them on the scoreboard. DRIFFIELD 3 ALNWICK 14
But from the Alnwick restart Driffield contrived to mess it up. Nobody put their name on it, and Alnwick poured through the gaps.. Fortunately at a resultant scrum, Driffield won the ball and created a good exit strategy. After 30 minutes James Dinsdale came on for Borman, and Zavatti for Pettinger. The Alnwick supporters had spotted 2 high tackles by their own players that had been lucky to go unpunished. A third got a yellow card. Driffield gained some temporary control. From a scrum on the Alnwick 22, Driffield moved the ball left and George Mewburn made no mistake with his try, which was not converted.
HALF TIME : DRIFFIELD 8 ALNWICK 14
Murray came on for Dearing at the break. Early in the second half, Ramsden used his quick feet and made a good break from the Alnwick 10 metre line. Mewburn took the ball on, and it looked good if Driffield could get support in numbers. But somehow, they lost the ball in contact under the opposition posts, and frustratingly, Alnwick were able to clear the danger. At the time, the match probably hinged on this chance been taken, but it was simply wasted. It was not through lack of effort on Driffield’s part. They could simply not put enough phases together to breakdown their opponents defence. This often led to them running laterally across the field, or resorting to haphazard field kicking, without using their usual direct running into space.
Driffield managed to put some good plays together, down the right hand side and into the opposition 22. The referee blew for 2 penalties in quick succession against Alnwick for failing to roll away in the tackle as Driffield mounted their attack. On another day, this may have been deemed persistently infringing. Alnwick were able to counter, and a good off- load from their second row, on the Driffield 22, got them over for the try close to the posts, which was converted. DRIFFIELD 8 ALNWICK 21
Shortly afterwards Pettinger was making good ground on the half way, but in the tackle twisted a knee in an awkward fall, and was replaced again by Zavatti. On 70 minutes scuffling broke out at a breakdown. Handbags were thrown, and Blenkinsop, and his Alnwick opposite number both deserved their yellow cards. This resulted in uncontested scrums for the remainder of the game. In the dying minutes, Alnwick mounted a last attack down the right. Their excellent centre Cuthbert managed a neat switch inside to their hooker who galloped over for a converted try.
FULL TIME :DRIFFIELD 8 ALNWICK 28
It is fair to say Driffield left points out on the field. They won 70% of second half possession, had nothing to show in return for it, but had 2 tries scored against them. They just couldn’t break down the well-organised Alnwick defence. Simple mistakes and penalties let down what was a full-spirited team effort. The words accuracy and patience spring to mind. This seems to have been a recurring theme over the last three games. They know they have ample ability to commit the opposition and hold onto the ball. Dinnington are next week’s visitors to Kelleythorpe, and no doubt Cooper et al will be hatching a cunning plan.