Kirkby Lonsdale 17 – 12 Preston Grasshoppers

Hoppers limp at Underley Park 

A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson

There was fire and brimstone on the pitch and dignity and respect off it and in the clubhouse, days like this are rare and wise Kirkby heads rated it as one of the best performances ever seen at Underley Park. The Kirkby defence was outstanding, well organised and strong against a powerful Hoppers team who simply couldn’t break Kirkby down and when attacking opportunities came the home side took them with style, skill and pace.

Earlier in the season in the away fixture Hoppers had squeezed home by a point in injury time to claim the win and they came into this game as runaway undefeated league leaders, this loss is unlikely to halt their march to the title and promotion but their perfect record has gone.

Kirkby kicked off towards the Town in front of a large crowd and into a strong wind but it was Hoppers who applied the early pressure taking play into the home twenty two. Good work down their right touchline put Scott Jordan over near the right corner flag for the first try, the conversion was wide but the visitors led 0 – 5 after twelve minutes play.

A high tackle gave Kirkby a chance for points, Tom Pickthall’s long range kick fell just short and under the posts but Kirkby were coming more and more into the game. A Hoppers clearance kick was caught, fed inside and run back by Scott Armstrong who broke a tackle to charge into the twenty two, Ben Walker was running the inside channel and he took the well timed pass to canter over behind the posts, Pickthall’s conversion taking Kirkby into the lead at 7 – 5 at the end of the first quarter.

Things were getting a bit fired up on the pitch and this resulted in a double yellow, Walker for Kirkby and Jordan for Hoppers and moments later Vice Captain Pickthall saw yellow and joined his Skipper Walker on the bench. Fourteen on the pitch for the visitors then and thirteen for Kirkby but the man advantage didn’t have any effect, during this period it was the home side who looked more likely to score but the scoreboard didn’t move and with all players restored to the action it was still 7 – 5 when the half time whistle went.

The second half was a mighty affair, Hoppers picked up another yellow when their number four took a Kirkby player out in the air but again the man advantage didn’t count. The visitors probably had a slight edge in the set piece scrum but Kirkby were able to control things well enough to secure their own ball and the ding dong battle swung to and fro.

There was a long period of pressure from the visitors in the Kirkby twenty two which looked like it would produce a score, chances came and went as heroic defence kept them out and the ball eventually went loose near the Kirkby line and into the hands of Walker. He darted through a gap and was away down the left and over the half way line, cover closed in but a sweetly timed pass inside to Harry Huddleston cut out the last defender and put the young winger in by the posts, Pickthall’s conversion extending the lead to 14 – 5 with twenty minutes to play.

A long range Pickthall penalty nudged the lead out further to 17 – 5 before a converted Paul Arnold try for Hoppers closed it to 17 – 12 with ten minutes on the clock. The game could still have gone either way and the pendulum swung Hoppers way when they were awarded a penalty, an easy touch kick to the left corner and a catch and drive would do it but as players regained their feet Hoppers Sam Gale was red carded for stamping. The ref then reversed the penalty, Kirkby cleared to touch, won their lineout and ran the clock down for a very famous victory, it was impossible to nominate one player as the Man of the Match so the award went to the whole team and the bar stayed open a long time.

Team

1   Tyran Fagan

2   Matt Holyland

3   Elliot Horner

4   Gareth Gore

5   Matt Hughes

6   Craig Galbraith

7   Stuart Storey

8   Alex Rogers

9   Ben Walker

10 Dave Barton

11 Harry Huddleston

12 Scott Armstrong

13 Tom Pickthall

14 Harry Ralston

15 Agustin Cittadini

 

Bench

16 Dan Thompson

17 Ross Towers

18 Matthew Bargh