Saturday 4 October 2014 – 3.00pm
Mint Bridge, Kendal
North One West
The mighty Kendal consolidated top spot in North One West today with a win over New Brighton that was more tense that it might have been.
26-3 up at the break after almost completely dominating the first half, the Hornets were metres away from conceding a potentially match-winning score at the death, and in the end just hung on to make it five wins out of five at the start of the season.
The Cumbrians began the day on eighteen points, three ahead of second-placed Widnes following last weekend’s victory in county derby at Penrith. The visitors from the Wirral began eleventh as they continue to get to grips with life in a higher league, having been promoted from South Lancs & Cheshire One last season.
By kick-off, the heavy rain that had blasted the area surrounding the Village of the Damned in the morning had lifted to be replaced by bright, if not boiling, sunshine. The Penrith victory saw Kendal’s injury list grow, captain James Gough being added to the list, however his replacement at scrum-half Matty Kaye deputised well and played a key role in the Hornets’ first-half dominance.
The first try came after only five minutes when centre Mark Carruthers, one of the stars of Kendal’s performance, broke through two tackles on the left and was felled just short of the tryline. Kendal recycled and flanker Blake Robinson was driven over, Glenn Weightman converting the score.
Josh Chaplow, Robinson’s partner at flanker, danced through the New Brighton defence again but Carruthers dropped the penultimate pass on the right with a gaping overlap outside him. Weightman extended the lead on the quarter-hour however with a penalty for New Brighton going off their feet.
Away winger Joe Silcock was shown a yellow card shortly after for not releasing, the position of the offence (thirty metres out, near the touchline) suggesting that it may have been a team card following an ill-disciplined opening period from the Merseysiders. Kendal went to the corner, and from the lineout spread play left but Alistair Thompson this time couldn’t gather the scoring pass.
Weightman added another penalty, this time from long range in a central position, but from the kick-off New Brighton put together their first real attack and winger Vinny Dutton knocked over a penalty to get his side on the scoresheet.
Kendal’s lead was extended back to thirteen points within minutes though, the visitors’ big number eight being sent off on halfway and the penalty soaring through the north posts.
On the half-hour, Kendal got the second try their dominance deserved, Dan Lowther making a storming run through the middle and as defenders stood off him, the centre powered for the line and touched down under the posts, giving Weightman an easy conversion. On half-time, a fourth penalty gave the Cumbrians a 26-3 lead at the interval.
Most of the few hundred people in attendance at Mint Bridge would have been expecting a rout – I certainly was – but it didn’t turn out that way.
From the start of the second half New Brighton, roared on by a smattering of away fans including one quite vociferous gentleman in a red sweater, looked a far more determined and aggressive side. Their forwards took control of possession, battering repeatedly on the Kendal tryline for the first five minutes.
Kendal defended well, holding the visitors up on the left, however from the scrum the ball was spread and Silcock atoned for his earlier card with a try out wide. Dutton added the conversion and suddenly things were interesting.
The winger added a penalty after Kendal were caught offside in midfield, bringing the travelling side to within two converted tries of the hosts as they continued to dominate the second period.
Kendal finally made an attack just after the hour mark, and had an opportunity to settle things down but Weightman pulled his penalty wide of the left post. Winger Thompson and his namesake at number eight James made big drives for the line but ran into a spirited New Brighton defence, the latter having to spend the last ten minutes of the game sat by an advertisement board after suffering injury in the search for a try.
Kendal continued driving, and were held up twice in quick succession in the dying minutes, but at the second scrum the referee gave the visitors a free kick, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
With the big Lake District Business Park clock showing eighty minutes to be up, New Brighton attacked again, and Ned Brooks cut through the Hornets’ defence like a hot knife through butter to score just to the left of the posts. The conversion took the Merseysiders into bonus point territory, and ensured a nervy final few seconds for the Cumbrians.
Deep into injury time, New Brighton were again on the attack and Brooks again looked to be away and heading towards the tryline, but a desperate tap on the ankle by a Kendal defender broke the centre’s stride and a knock-on brought an end to a true game of two halves.
Kendal remain three points clear at the top of the table tonight after Birkenhead Park replaced Widnes in second place after a 36-37 win away to the Cheshire men. Next up for the mighty Hornets is the hosting of mid-table Cumbrian rivals Carlisle a week today.
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