Birkenhead Park 17
Kirkby Lonsdale 15
KIRKBY LONSDALE fell agonisingly short of inflicting a league double over Birkenhead Park only for a late Dave Hall penalty to hand the title-chasers victory.
Full-back Hall scored the home side’s only try while Dave Barton and the fit-again Sam Latu – out since mid-November with a broken thumb – touched down for the visitors.
Although buoyed by Latu’s return, the Underley Park side were without skipper Matt Hughes and hooker Dan Armistead, with an unconventional front row of Tim Groves, James Law and David Cooper-Dunne.
Immediate Kirkby pressure and territorial advantage resulted in an early penalty miss although Tom Pickthall converted a second kick after ten minutes.
Despite Kirkby’s positive start, Hall replied for Birkenhead Park with a penalty of his own midway through the first-half while Pickthall failed to convert again on the half-hour mark.
However, the away side were not to be denied for long and scored the opening try of the contest with 35 minutes on the clock, Latu the architect with a powerful run.
The Australian was tackled on the twenty two after running from his own half, with the ball recycled and Ben Walker feeding Barton who evaded a couple of tackles to score.
Pickthall’s conversion gave Kirkby a seven-point advantage although Birkenhead Park stormed back before the break to reduce the arrears and make the half-time score 10-8 in Kirkby’s favour.
Dave Morgan fed Hall to cross the line by the right corner flag for an unconverted try after the hosts’ pack was held five metres out and several recycles.
Kirkby’s lack of forward resources began to be exposed in the second-half with Birkenhead Park sending on fresher legs, adding weight to their scrum and extra muscle in open play.
Despite the visitors defending defiantly, two penalties were conceded which Hall successfully kicked to take the score to 14-10.
However, with little over ten minutes remaining and the game still in the balance, Kirkby scored their second try of the afternoon to cap some impressive play.
Walker’s jinking run took him deep into Birkenhead Park territory before being tackled in mid-field, with the ball moved right to Martyn Knapton who was halted close to the line.
Play then switched across the pitch where Latu ran onto the ball at full pace, burst through a number of attempted tackles and scored in the left corner for an unconverted try.
With only five minutes left on the clock, Birkenhead Park had little option but to pressurise Kirkby and after line-out ball was won the away side conceded a penalty.
Hall made no mistake with his kick from in front of the posts to secure victory for the Upper Park outfit – avenging their 27-20 defeat at Underley Park in September.
Despite producing an encouraging level of performance and out-scoring their high-flying opponents, Kirkby had to be content with a bonus point.
Defeat and results elsewhere mean Kirkby slip to tenth in the league standings – one of three clubs on 38 points – ahead of this weekend’s clash at home to Warrington.
Kirkby Lonsdale: Tim Groves, James Law, David Cooper-Dunne, Simon Dowker, Jonny Mason, Callum Sheldon, Stuart Storey, Craig Galbraith, Ben Walker, Dave Barton, Josh Maddocks, Tom Pickthall, Jack Akrigg (c), Sam Latu, Martyn Knapton. Replacements: Tom Slater, Jack Benson