KIRKBY Lonsdale cemented their position as runaway league leaders with a convincing 36-7 win away Whitehaven side St Benedicts.

The North One West Division’s top team scored six tries at Newlands Avenue, but their efforts were aided by an early red card for the hosts.

St Benedicts kicked off playing left to right in front of their clubhouse and into the cold stiff breeze, Kirkby caught cleanly and through a series of moves and recycles took play back into the home half, with the ball eventually going into touch for a St Benedicts throw.

Kirkby stole their throw, but then knocked on, then took the scrum against the head to regain possession.

An altercation then broke out among the players and once order was restored the referee, Lewis Harrison of the Durham Society, produced a straight red card for the home number four.

With a man advantage Kirkby would have expected to press on and while the majority of play was in the home twenty two Kirkby couldn’t get the ball over the line.

Eventually St Benedicts managed to get into the Kirkby half and even pressed the line but the game evolved into an exchange of kicks down Kirkby’s right touchline. This aerial ping-pong ended with the ball in Kirkby hands and they opened play up, spinning it from inside their twenty two in a move which took play over half way and ended with outside centre Harry Ralston scoring try one in the left corner. No conversion but some of the pressure had been relieved as Kirkby took the lead.

St Benedicts kicked their restart straight to touch and Kirkby won their scrum on the centre spot. Number eight Craig Galbraith picked up and made some ground before passing to scrum half and skipper Ben Walker who cut through the home defence from some forty metres out breaking a couple of tackles along the way to score try two by the right corner flag. This time full back Ryan Terry was on target with the difficult conversion from the touchline and Kirkby led 12-0.

Kirkby began to turn the screw. A break by stand-off Dave Barton put Kirkby on the attack in the home half and a beautifully timed pass by him to Terry gave him the opportunity to score the third try, he didn’t waste it and although his conversion came back off the post the home side had a mountain to climb at 17 points and a man down.

The mountain got higher when Stu Storey who had moved from the back row to right wing cut inside but was taken out by a blatant shoulder charge which earned the culprit a yellow card and gave Kirkby a scrum fifteen metres from the line. The Kirkby pack drove St Benedicts back and over the line for Galbraith to touch down the bonus point fourth try, converted by Terry to extend the lead to 24-0.

Down to thirteen men things didn’t look too good for St Benedicts but they got just the chance they were looking for when a speculative kick down their left touchline missed touch and dropped just inside the Kirkby twenty two. The ball was caught by Terry who spun a long pass inside to Walker but he uncharacteristically dropped the pass in front of the posts. An attacking scrum to St Benedicts then and although under great pressure they managed to get the ball into the hands of their number eight who went over for the try. The conversion brought the half time whistle with the score at 24-7.

Kirkby rung the changes starting the second half with Alan Robinson at two, Alex Rogers at eight and Joe Faumui in the second row and they extended their lead with a quick pass to Storey who scored in the corner for 29-7.

St Benedicts pressed and Kirkby resisted, an occasional burrow through gained ground for the home side but they were also driven backwards while in possession and, as the heavy pitch began to cut up, Kirkby’s superior fitness was a key factor. The final key moment came from Kirkby as they ran out of defence down the right, the ball coming to outside centre Ralston who timed his step inside to perfection to leave the defence flat footed as he scampered in under the posts. The conversion took the final score to 36-7 as Kirkby notched their 20th consecutive win this season.