KIRKBY Lonsdale RUFC finished their title-winning campaign with a 23-7 win over Blackburn to complete a perfect season in which they won every single game.
Win number 26 came at Underley Park with first place and promotion already sealed, but captain Ben Walker had issued a challenge to his players to see the out the year in winning style, and they did not disappoint.
Kirkby’s first try came after sustained pressure on the Blackburn line when number seven Alex Rogers crashed over. Inside centre Tom Pickthall’s conversion drifted wide and it was 5-0, but more importantly try one was on the board. A great break from Pickthall from well inside his own half then took play into the Blackburn twenty two, he was eventually tackled but the visitors were penalised at the ruck and Pickthall kicked the penalty to extend the lead to 8-0.
From a Kirkby scrum on their own ten metre line scrum half Walker fed Barton who, with a characteristic break, drifted through the Blackburn defence down the left side of the field and took play into the Blackburn twenty two. Number thirteen Harry Ralston was running in support on the outside, as cover closed in he took the pass from Barton and, with plenty to do, evaded the remaining defence to score in the corner to make it 13-0.
Blackburn hit back with pressure near the Kirkby line and although Kirkby turned them over to gain possession they were able to charge down a clearance kick, gather the ball and score by the right corner flag. Their conversion from the touchline was good and they were on the board at 13-7.
A few minutes into the second half Kirkby prop Cameron Rowse seemed unlucky to get a straight yellow from a tackle. The penalty gave Blackburn good position and from their lineout they drove for the line. Down to fourteen men the Kirkby defence held several attacks from drives and open play but a knock on relieved the pressure. Play swung back to the Blackburn line and it was their turn to defend. A Kirkby drive was held up over the line but they had possession from their five metre scrum and a couple of phases later hooker Matt Hoyland got the ball over the line in the right corner. No conversion but Kirkby led 18-7.
Fittingly, the history making try four came from Dave Barton, not with the characteristic flair of a break but from a scrappy period of play as Kirkby attacked down their left. Several surges for the line were held by Blackburn until Barton picked up a loose ball and, instinctively, he was over from close range to rapturous applause from the Underley Park crowd. Again the conversion was missed but Kirkby had their 25th bonus point of a remarkable season.
Captain Walker was presented with the trophy in front of the grandstand where a motif of the club’s rams head mascot was emblazoned on the grass bank. With proud coaches John Pickthall, Steve Williams and John Orr watching, he hoisted the Trophy.
During the season Kirkby broke every record in North One West since the division was established scoring 187 tries at an average of seven over the twenty six games played. They scored 1187 points and conceded only 283, the biggest ever margin, and they racked up the highest ever league points total of 129.
Even more impressively is that of the 30 players selected for the 1st XV this season, 21 are from the Kirkby Mini and Youth system.
Kirkby will play their games next season in National League Three, the highest level they have reached in their 140-year history.