STEVE Whitehead and Matt Hughes are all too aware of the importance of Saturday's crunch showdown between Kirkby Lonsdale and Kendal - a match regarded as the most important in this history of the two local rivals.

The Kendal director of rugby and Kirkby Lonsdale's captain have clocked more than 50 years between them for their respective clubs. They know they should be preparing as they would for any other match. But they are both acutely aware that this is not any other match.

Just 14 miles separate the two old rivals but, more importantly, in terms of the North One West table, Kirkby sit in second place just two points ahead of their neighbours.

While it is not quite winner-takes-all given the fact that there will still be two games to play, it is the next best thing as, in all likelihood, both teams are competing for one place - runners-up behind title favourites Birkenhead Park.

"This will be the biggest game of the career, without a doubt," said Hughes, 31, who has been at Kirkby Lonsdale since he was 11-years-old. "You want to say you'll approach it like any other game but we would be kidding ourselves because we know the importance of the match.

"It's massive."

Whitehead, who has played for Kendal at every level and has been director of rugby since the summer of 2013, is happy to say it as it is.

"It's the biggest game in the history of the two clubs," said the 45-year-old. "For years we played at different levels so we could not really be compared. But for the last two seasons we have been in the same division. We are on a level playing field now so, in that respect, there has not been a bigger or more important game between us.

"It's not quite winner takes all because there will be a few more twists and turns to come but it is the next best thing given what is at stake."

Nearly 1,200 spectators crammed in to Mint Bridge in the first meeting between the two clubs back in November, a game Kendal won 15-8.

And a similar sized crowd is expected at Underley Park on Saturday where Kirkby will be defending their unbeaten home record.

Hughes says such interest in great for rugby in the area but victory is all that counts, especially for the fans.

"It is great the match has stirred up such an interest. It is the game everyone has been looking forward to and it is the one everyone is talking about," said the big second row. "We know the importance of the game for the fans of both clubs. They want the win more than anything, they want the local bragging rights and as players we have to go on there and deliver."

Steve Whitehead

"We know each others game inside out so there will be no pulling any surprises. It will all be about controlling emotions on the day.

"I want my players to enjoy it, to draw on that emotion but control it. There will be no problem getting them up for the game but they just need to

"It is a massive game, the biggest in the history between the two clubs when you consider what it is at stake....

"I think all the pressure is on Kirkby. They are in second place, they're in the driving seat and have the easier run-in. They may see us as their last big test so they will be wanting

"They have built of something of Fortress Kirkby but our intention is to go there and smash it down.

"Ever match is a cup final for us now, we have to win all our games. It is real do or die stuff for us


Matt Hughes said

This is the biggest game of my career so far. I've played in a few play-off games in the lower divisions but

I would say there is friendly rivalry between the two clubs and as sets of players we call get on pretty well. But we know the importance of the game for the fans of both clubs. They want the win more than anything, they want the local bragging rights and has players we have to go on there and deliver.

"This is a chance for a player or players to become a hero.

"There was around 1,000 spectators at their place for the opening game and I am expected the same again at Underley Park on Saturday.

It is a massive game,

"I am sure there will be a bit of banter flying about between the players before the game. Most of the lads have come up through the junior ranks at their respective clubs but there are a few who have played for both clubs. Stuart Storey, our openside flanker, played for Kendal Seconds a few years ago while we have a few other lads who live in Kendal and travel across to play.

Up until last season, we hadn't played each other and we finished fourth and fifth in the league so there was not that much at stake.

But this time around, it is a different story as there is so much at stake.