KENDAL RUFC's last ever game at Mint Bridge ended in an agonising defeat as they fell short in a second half comeback against Billingham.
At fifteen points down five minutes into the second half, Kendal fought back to score three tries and came close to snatching an unlikely victory but eventually lost 20-22.
Billingham had the better of the opening exchanges and showed their intent to move the ball quickly at every opportunity. They opened the scoring after five minutes when Kendal were caught offside at a ruck and their scrum half slotted home a penalty to make it 3-0.
Billingham won the kick off ball back and immediately put Kendal under pressure again, but the Kendal defence proved equal. When Kendal had the ball, the Billingham defence made sure they could not make any ground upfield to relieve the pressure.
The visitors added to their score after 25 minutes. From a penalty, they chose to take a scrum from which their No.8 picked up and powered through the tackles to score. A successful conversion had Billingham 10-0 in front.
Kendal then went close to getting a try of their own in front of the many fans packed outside the clubhouse. Glenn Weightman put a long penalty kick to touch near the line where Ben Leacock gathered the throw. The forwards drove but Billingham were able to hold them up. The referee decided illegally, and Kendal were awarded a penalty. James Gough took it quickly only to be immediately tackled by a Billingham player, which earned him ten minutes on the side lines.
Kendal took a scrum, but when the ball was moved left, it when stopped when a Billingham hand got to the ball. The referee decided it was a deliberate knock on and awarded Kendal a penalty. This time it was put to touch and when the lineout was won, the ball was moved wide where Chris Downham made a powerful run through the defence, but he was stopped before the line.
The slender 10-0 half-time lead seemed poor reward for the Billingham dominance, and Kendal were still in the game. But Billingham started the second half well and after Kendal were penalised for a high tackle, the ball was moved quickly for Billingham to go over for an unconverted try.
Kendal though got themselves straight back into it. After good build up work, the ball seemed to have been moved in the wrong direction to Zane Butler who was isolated on the right wing, but he did very well to make ground. The ball was worked through Duncan Green and onto Weightman who forced his way through to get Kendal's first try before picking himself up to convert and reduce the gap further to 15-7 with half an hour to play.
Billingham then showed why they are pushing for a top four finish. The ball was first moved right, then back left, and despite the Kendal defence somehow managing to get across to stop what looked a certain try, the ball was then moved back right again. Resistance finally ran out and Billingham had their third try which was converted to restore their lead to 22-7.
The scoring spree continued, and this time it was Kendal’s turn. From a lineout in midfield Downham again demonstrated his speed to power through. Just when it looked as he could go all the way he laid it off to Damian Armstrong who managed to dive over for the score and reduce the gap to 10 points.
With ten minutes to play Kendal were awarded a penalty in midfield. The ball was given to Weightman to try to reduce the gap to a single score with a long range kick. He delivered to make it 22-15 to set up a frantic finish.
Looking for a fourth try to extend the lead Billingham tried to run the ball out of defence. This appeared to be working well until a loose bass was gathered by Butler. He didn't need any support to go over for the try, but the Billingham defence had got back to force the ball to be grounded near the corner flag. Weightman had a difficult kick to level the scores and despite a good effort, it drifted agonisingly wide.
With time running out Weightman appeared to have broken through again, but when he was stopped, the referee quickly blew for failing to release the ball. Billingham put the ball to touch and played a simple game to run the clock down.
Kendal tried in vain to retrieve possession but Billingham held on meaning Kendal's 90-year stay at Mint Bridge ended in a narrow defeat.