IF EVER there was a game of two halves this was it as fourth placed Rossendale got things under way against confident Kirkby at Underley Park.

Kirkby took the ball cleanly but number seven Stu Storey was injured in the first minute and had to limp off, with Callum Little coming off the bench as Kirkby applied the early pressure.

A long range penalty was just wide after five minutes but stand off Mike Fearon made no mistake with a second penalty a few minutes later to put Kirkby ahead 3-0 with six minutes played.

A strapped up Storey re-entered the fray and on 14 minutes Rossendale had a sitter of a penalty in front of the posts but managed to miss it and Kirkby took advantage courtesy of a long range solo try from Scott Armstrong, who took a pass just inside his own half and ran a looping arc with a series of side steps, hand-offs and dummies to score by the posts. Fearon tapped over the conversion to make it 10 – 0.

A second successful penalty by Fearon from the twenty two made it 13-0 on the half hour before Dale finally got on the board with a try after stand off Lewis Allen flighted a clever kick over the defence and into space for his right winger to run in behind the posts. The conversion took the score to 13-7.

But as the half drew to a close and Dale sought to close the gap further, skipper and number eight Dominic Moon picked up a yellow and a particularly ferocious passage of play came to an end with stand off Allen leaving the field on a stretcher.

With 47 minutes on the clock it was Armstrong again with a carbon copy run of pace and power to score his second individual try as Kirkby extended the lead to 18-7 at half time.

And he was at it again straight from the restart as Fearon’s kick was gathered by Kirkby number seven Storey, who fed it back to scrum half Ben Walker for a switch move down the short side which took the ball to Armstrong some 30 metres out – and there was the hat trick try with Fearon again adding the conversion to make the score 25-7.

However, from that point on the home team started playing like they thought they had already won and the balance shifted as a fired-up Dale hit the gas and began to chase the game with some ferocious rugby, particularly from number seven Phil Mills with some almighty runs.

Kirkby weren’t helped by yellow cards, first for James Fishwick and later on Stu Storey, which meant they were defending with 14 men, and when influential scrum half Walker was taken out with a blatant late tackle he had to limp off and took no further part in the match.

A kickable penalty also hit the post and bounced out but the main problem was that Kirkby could not get their hands on the ball and were forced into desperate defence.

On the half hour Dale crossed for an unconverted try to make it 25-12 and six minutes later closed the gap to 25-17 with another unconverted try as full time approached.

Kirkby were digging deep and tackling like demons but they conceded another try as the game went into time added on. And with the gap now down to three points there was relief on and off the pitch when the final whistle went.

Kirkby Lonsdale 25 Rossendale 22