Kendal 3 Harrogate 25

KENDAL started brightly against North Premier promotion chasers Harrogate – but it was the visitors who took an early lead and rarely looked like surrendering it.

Glen Weightman was away so Leo Mercer made a first appearance for almost two years, while Cameron Hetherington made his debut on the right and Nick Carlton returned on the left flank.

Kendal had an early opportunity to open the scoring but a penalty failed to find its target and it was Harrogate who went ahead after five minutes as a penalty was converted.

The home team spent a long time defending, with Harrogate playing a simple possession game and probing for gaps, but against the run of play it looked as if Kendal could get the first try.

Dini Noyo and then Zane Butler both opened up the Harrogate defence – but the final pass to Nick Carlton failed to find its target.

However, Kendal were on level terms after 25 five minutes when Chris Downham appeared to be harshly punished as he tried to steal Harrogate ball. But the referee spotted a Harrogate player taking the law into his own hands – putting a hand in Downham’s face – and reversed the penalty. Chris Park made no mistake.

In first half stoppage time there was concern for Kendal when the game was stopped for an injury to Zane Butler, who was forced off to be replaced by Mark Carruthers. And the half finished with Harrogate putting a penalty to touch but halted as they drove for the line.

The second half opened with Kendal again forced to defend in their own 22, and after 12 minutes Harrogate were awarded a penalty which was converted to restore the lead at 3-6

And the margin was increased immediately after Dini Noyo chipped the ball ahead and tried to chase it. He appeared to be blocked but the referee waved play on and the kick went to the Harrogate left wing, who outpaced Liam Ridley – just on as a replacement for Liam Hayton – and went through to score.

Harrogate continued to dominate, with heroic Kendal defence proving equal to everything that was thrown at it and Chris Downham in typically rampaging form on the rare occasions the hosts had possession.

And after 20 minutes, there was the moment many on the touchline had been waiting for as new prop George Tuala came on in place of the injured Robbie Collinson. He soon made his mark as Kendal forced a penalty.

But the score stayed the same until the final five minutes when a Harrogate kick was put to the right wing and was well chased for a score, with centre Nathan Wyman putting over a difficult conversion to make the score 3-18.

And again Harrogate added a second quick score as the kick off was re-cycled and there were a number of breaks down the right wing leading to a try. Again Wyman added the conversion.

Kendal finished the game with one of their best moves, with Robbie Collinson showing no ill effects from his earlier injury, making two good breaks which in the end came to nothing.

Unsurprisingly, Chris Downham was named Kendal’s man of the match – his fourth award in the last six games.

After the game, disappointed Kendal director of rugby Steve Whitehead said: “We are in a fight. We need to build on some of the endeavour and spirit within the camp and I am sure things will turn.

“It is a long season and it’s about staying focused and looking at our own performances. In this league there are fine margins and errors can have costly outcomes– and we saw that in the game.

“I felt the team lacked a cutting edge and didn’t penetrate as well as I would have liked. We just have to focus on ourselves and I am confident that things will turn.”