Leigh 18-20 Kendal

KENDAL fly-half Glen Weightman struck a drop goal with the last kick of the game to snatch a dramatic season-opening win at newly-promoted Leigh.

After an impressive campaign last season and with new backroom staff in place, hopes of pushing for promotion are high for the Shap Road club.

But they were made to work hard for their win against the league newcomers and were staring defeat in the face until Weightman's last minute kick.

"It was a relief in the end," said Steve Whitehead, Kendal's director of rugby. "We should never have been in that position. I think 90 per cent of what was not good against Leigh is fixable.

"All our warm up games were at Kendal and in hindsight I should have got an away game in there because it helps with the logistics of it.

"Twenty minutes into the game it was looking like a bonus point win but we didn't manage the game very well and that needs to change.

"We dropped a lot of ball as well with first game nerves and apprehension but I am not too concerned about that.

"Glen got us out of jail. It takes a lot of courage when you know you've got seconds on the clock to drop the goal but I think he felt he had to."

Kendal started well but were being hampered with a string of handling errors and passes going astray.

It took fifteen minutes before the deadlock was finally broken by Chris Park after good work by Zane Butler allowed Park room to break through the defence to score under the posts, giving himself an easy conversion.

Kendal continued to dominate possession, with Leigh rarely escaping their half, but handling errors continued to prevent further scores.

With three minutes of the half to play, on a rare visit to the Kendal half, Leigh opened their scoring with a penalty to close the deficit to four points at the break.

At the start of the second half Kendal were immediately punished for failing to take their earlier opportunities.

A Leigh player broke down the right wing, and when a kick was put through, there was a needless late tackle, as the kick ahead was already covered.

The penalty was put to touch and when the lineout was won, the ball was moved into midfield, to set up a position for the Leigh No.8 to score, with the outside half converting to give the home side the lead for the first time.

Kendal retook the lead when a Leigh kick out of defence was gathered by Dini Noyo, who set off on a weaving run, before passing to Weightman, who had an easy run to the line. Park converted to make the score 14-10.

What appeared a serious injury to a Leigh player broke the Kendal momentum, although he was able to walk off the field.

Leigh turned up the heat and the pressure finally told after twenty minutes when their full-back went over the line to give his side the lead.

But five minutes later Kendal went ahead again.

After James Gough had taken run an earlier penalty quickly, Park was given the ball and made no mistake to take the score to 17-15.

Things took a turn for the worse for Kendal when, with just four minutes left on the clock, head coach and player Chris Downham ran the ball out of defence from a scrum - but the referee adjudged that he had failed to release the ball when tackled and awarded a penalty, which was duly taken.

But the scoring was not finished there.

After a scrum the Kendal pack stole the ball back from Leigh, and patient work slowly took the ball up field, with Holmes and Rob Wightman prominent.

And when they were ready the ball came back to Weightman for him to slot over the drop goal.

Despite there being a seven minutes delay for the serious injury, and with only five minutes of extra time played, the referee blew the full-time whistle.

Team: Nathan Woof, Matty Houghton, Zane Butler, Danny Barker, Chris Park, Glen Weightman, James Gough, Duncan Green, Garry Holmes, Jack Lashley, Liam Hayton, Ben Leacock, Blake Robinson, Chris Downham, James Thompson. Subs: Mark Carruthers, Rob Wightman, Dini Noyo