KENDAL RUFC welcomed Preston Grasshoppers to Mint Bridge for the long-awaited curtain raiser at their new home.

A bumper crowd witnessed the dawn of a new era for the club, but on the pitch a strong Preston side fought hard to leave with a 25-19 victory.

Fitness doubts Dini Noyo and Mike Fearon both started, so the only changes to the team that played Pocklington saw Brett Ashley start on the right wing in place of Mark Carruthers, while Damian Armstrong replaced Danny Barker, who started on the bench with Duncan Green and Chris Downham.

The visitors were second in the league, kept off the top spot by an away draw at third place Hull.

After the official ceremonies had been performed in front of the grandstand, the game kicked off with Kendal attacking the river end.

Early exchanges were fairly even with Kendal having the longer period on the attack, but Preston looking more dangerous with the ball in hand.

Preston were having the better of the scrums, but Kendal were competing well at the lineout, with Will Montgomery even stealing a Hoppers throw.

It took twenty minutes for the deadlock to be broken when Chris Park scored the first points at the new ground with a penalty. Ten minutes later he added a second penalty and Kendal led 6-0.

As the half came to an end Kendal had to spend their first long period in defence, and finally a clever cross-field kick was gathered by fullback Scott Jordan who went over for an unconverted try to make it 6-5.

Just before the break, Fearon was cynically taken out, resulting in a yellow card for Preston and a third penalty for Park to kick and extend the lead to 9-5 at the interval.

Preston left the field at half time and their coaching team clearly fired them up as they came out a different team, using their greater power and speed of handling to control the game.

A Kendal mistake, where a clearance kick was put directly to touch, put Preston immediately on the attack and they narrowed the lead to a point with a penalty from outside half Will Hunt.

After ten minutes of the half, Park converted a a fourth penalty to make it 12-8.

Shortly afterwards, however, Preston took the lead for the first time. What appeared to be a poor lineout throw was gathered by second row Ally Murray, and he was able to exploit confusion in the Kendal defence to go over for an unconverted try.

Preston added a third try after Kendal had been penalised at a scrum. Flanker Sam Gale took the penalty quickly and forced himself over for a try which was converted by outside half Hunt to give Preston a 20-12 lead.

Preston were now in total control and only some resolute defence was keeping them out as their massive but very mobile forwards looked to puncture the resistance, and when stopped always seemed to have another coming at pace.

The fourth try came from a scrum on the left. The ball was moved right and there was a loose pass, and a possibility of an interception by Noyo, but instead the ball fell kindly for Preston, for a third unconverted try to make it 25-12.

With one of their first opportunities of the half in Preston territory, a score was pulled back three minutes into injury time. Preston were caught offside in the centre and the ball was put to touch. The forwards drove to the line, and just as it looked as if Preston had held them up, Glen Chesher emerged with the try. Needing the difficult conversion to put the team within one score of an unlikely victory, Park stepped up and added the conversion.

Preston played out the game using a very simple but effective tight game, to stop Kendal having any chance of getting their hands on the ball for late drama, and having run the clock down put the ball to touch for a hard-earned victory.