18 Mar Kirkby Lonsdale 17-5 Billingham
Kirkby Tackle It
A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson
A lightening strike had cut power and prevented the scheduled game going ahead the previous Saturday but stormy conditions had prevailed throughout the week and the ground was saturated. So, mention should be made of the efforts of Pete Kyles, Plug Taylor (recovering from a knee operation), Roy Denby and a few others to get surface water off the pitch to enable this game to go ahead, and to injured winger Harry Ralston who somehow made it on his crutches all the way to the packed grandstand.
Billingham arrived at a rain soaked Underley Park for this rearranged fixture on 79 points, locked in a three way struggle for second place with Harrogate and Blaydon both on 80. But this was Billingham’s game in hand, one of their most important games of the season according to their officials and they were desperately seeking a win to reclaim the play off place.
However, it wasn’t just the wind that was howling in the Park, the visitors ran into an inspired Kirkby side led by Skipper Dave Barton that was hell bent on performing and they tackled Billingham out of the game.
The visitors kicked off downwind and towards the club house, a deliberate grubber which skidded across the wet surface, it was competently dealt with but the clearance kick held up in the gale and Billingham had a lineout on half way. A penalty offence then gave Billingham a kick to the right corner and from the lineout they were able to catch and drive over for a try with five minutes played, no conversion but it was 0 – 5 and just the start the visitors would have wanted
Kirkby hit back within three minutes with a try from stand off Mike Fearon, Barton had done excellent work with a driving run into the Billingham twenty two before slipping a pass to Fearon who had plenty to do but a strong run took him over around ten metres in from the right touchline. The gale blew his conversion kick across the posts but parity was restored at 5 – 5.
As the game developed Kirkby were having the better of things although they suffered a set back on the half hour when Fearon was helped off and out of the game with a knee problem. Barton moved to ten, Josh Sheridan came off the bench into the back row and Will Brown went from the back row onto the right wing.
An attempt by Barton to get points from pressure failed when his drop goal kick hit the post but Kirkby were not to be denied as the half drew to a close when pocket rocket flanker Stu Storey charged over from close range. Ryan Terry’s conversion was good and Kirkby, deservedly, led 12 – 5 when the half time whistle went but there was only one score in it.
Billingham came out hot for the second half, stormed into home territory and when Kirkby killed the ball at a ruck the penalty gave Billingham an attacking lineout in the left corner. Taking the catch they threw everything into the drive and hammered the Kirkby line for five minutes with every kind of attack but outstanding defence prevailed and they couldn’t cross it.
The ball eventually came Kirkby’s way and from near his own line scrum half Ben Walker put in a raking clearance kick which rolled into touch down the right wing inside the Billingham half. It was a Billingham throw and they had the ball but in possession couldn’t get on the front foot and their attempts to run the ball out were met by ferocious two up tackles which repeatedly drove them back behind the gain line.
The weather became horrendous with teeming rain driven down the blusterously high wind, handling was near impossible in these conditions as was refereeing but the understanding approach of Mr Nathan Howarth of the Northern Society kept things on an even keel. An inevitable error from Billingham brought possession Kirkby’s way inside the visitors twenty two and they didn’t waste it when, after several phases, number eight Alex Rogers crashed over for the third try near the right corner flag. Terry’s conversion from wide out was at the mercy of the wind, the kick was close but shaved the post on the wrong side and it was 17 – 5 after fifteen minutes of the second half.
There was plenty of time on the clock and when Kirkby messed up the Billingham restart the visitors had field position and possession. But again the defence was strong with replacement prop Sam Tallon now in the thick of the defensive action and despite Billingham’s best creative efforts they just ran into Kirkby, Josh (Shero) Sheridan noticeable in the tackle count.
In this possibly unexpected situation the faithful were wondering if a four try bonus point was on. It could have been but although chances came they also went and, with praise to Billingham, the game drew to a close at 17 – 5, a famous Kirkby win which takes them to near fifty league points and ensures league status for next season with four games to play.
On a day like this the clubhouse was a very welcome place after the match where, for an all round performance in the tight and the loose, prop Dan Thompson was Kirkby’s Man of the Match. Billingham must be getting a bit fed up of him since he scored three tries against them in the away fixture earlier in the season.
1 Dan Thompson
2 Alex Briggs
3 Braden Schiller
4 James Thompson
5 Craig Galbraith
6 Will Brown
7 Stu Storey
8 Alex Rogers
9 Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Andrew Bargh
12 Dave Barton (c)
13 Scott Armstrong
14 Cameron Dale
15 Ryan Terry
16 Josh Sheridan
17 Sam Tallon
18 Sam Tomlinson