Kirkby Lonsdale 23

Wirral 14

A CAPABLE all round performance saw Kirkby Lonsdale ease towards mid-table respectability with a win against a strong Wirral side.

It was a victory based on scrum power and excellent defensive organisation, with the backs getting good go forward ball and generally using it well.

There were exciting contributions from the two young wingers Harry Huddleston and Cameron Dale and also fine performances off the bench from Alex Briggs, Craig Galbraith and the ever-improving Will Brown.

Underley Park looked resplendent under blue sky and the pitch was immaculate as Wirral kicked off towards the town and they had a game plan to pin down Kirkby in defence in the opening phases.

The strategy initially proved to be very effective, and the pressure did not ease until the first scrum five minutes in.

It was a Wirral put in but a well-timed heave from the Kirkby pack drove the visitors back and put a marker down for the rest of the game.

The visitors did heel the ball but it was bad ball and they knew that the game was on.

However, it was Wirral who put the first points on the board when a penalty from the boot of their number ten James Annetts sailed over from around 20 metres.

And on 14 minutes, Kirkby suffered again when Pickthall, going for an interception, was adjudged to have deliberately knocked down a Wirral pass and he was yellow carded.

But Kirkby then began to find some rhythm as the 14 regrouped and took the game to the visitors, who were unable to profit during the 10 minutes of their man advantage.

Restored to 15 men, Kirkby then turned the screw and on the half hour took the lead with a try from number ten Mike Fearon who burst through the Wirral defence, running round to touch down near the posts.

His conversion should have been a formality but a slightly leisurely approach to the kick gave the Wirral runners a chance to get off the line and pressure, and Fearon’s last second adjustment affected the strike and the ball hit the post and stayed out.

However, they handed the lead back as the half drew to a close when a second Annetts penalty punished a Kirkby offside offence.

That made it 5-6 when the half time whistle went and left Kirkby pondering during the break on the good chances that had not been taken.

But the home side were out of the blocks quickly in the second half with a try in the left corner after just two minutes, flanker Stuart Storey rounding off a short spell of forward pressure by powering over the line.

Fearon’s touchline conversion shaved the post on the wrong side but the Rams were back in the lead at 10-6.

Kirkby continued to have the better of the exchanges but it was Wirral who got the next score with a try in their left corner.

The conversion was wide but the visitors had regained the lead as the mid-point of the half drew close.

However, the lead changed again on the half hour when a Kirkby drive at a scrum mangled the Wirral pack, Fearon slotting the penalty from 25 metres to make it 13-11.

In the last quarter and with shades of the earlier away fixture in mind, Kirkby were finishing the better while Wirral were trying to slow things down.

With 37 minutes on the clock, Scott Armstrong broke through to extend the lead with a try following a powerful run to the line from outside the Wirral twenty two, Fearon’s conversion extending the lead to 20-11.

The points were effectively sealed but there was still just time for each side to kick a penalty in the closing seconds but the final whistle with the score at 23-14, leaving Wirral to go home pointless.

Mike Fearon was Kirkby’s man of the match in a win which took Kirkby to a creditable 52 points, although they face a difficult game next Saturday with the away fixture at second-placed Blaydon.

The North East side are only one point ahead of Harrogate and they both have two games to play so will be going flat out to take the maximum five points - and their home record this season of racking up 522 points at an average of 43 per game suggests they might be able to do that.

Kirkby then round off their season with a home clash against basement boys Wilmslow a week on Saturday, April 13.