12 Mar Kirkby Lonsdale 41 – 21 Billingham
Kirkby make a bonus point
A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson
The away fixture at Billingham earlier in the season hadn’t gone well on the artificial pitch and Kirkby were determined to set the record straight in this return fixture at Underley Park. Gloomy conditions prevailed with light rain falling and the surrounding fells were shrouded in mist as Kirkby took the field without skipper Ben Walker, Prop Tyran Fagan and full back Agustin Cittadini all side-lined with injury. Ross Towers started at nine and Elliot Horner was back from Lancashire County duty at one, James Fishwick now playing comfortably at first team level came onto the bench where it was good to also see Ryan Terry available whilst on leave from the RAF.
Billingham kicked off towards the town but it was Kirkby who had the first shout with a try from close range by number eight Dave Maka, skipper Tom Pickthall’s conversion missing narrowly and the home side were ahead 5 – 0 with four minutes played. Four minutes later Billingham were ahead with a converted try to make the score 5 – 7 but Kirkby had the sway in the game.
Twenty minutes played and Matt Bargh left the field with injury which brought Ryan Terry off the bench and into the action and as the closely contested first half drew to a close Kirkby extended their lead with a try from centre Scott Armstrong, converted by Pickthall to make it 12 – 7. Kirkby struck again in first half injury time, a crucial score at this point from stand-off Dave Barton, in imperious and controlling form in this game, his try converted by Pickthall to make the half time score 19 – 7.
Billingham did what they had to do and hit back with a converted try in the second minute of the second half to narrow the gap to 19 – 14 and put the game back in the balance. Then Kirkby did what they had to do to tip things back in their favour when a period of pressure gave winger Harry Ralston a chance which he took to score the bonus point fourth try in the left corner, Pickthall kicking the difficult conversion to extend Kirkby’s lead to 26 – 14 after ten minutes of the half.
It wasn’t all Kirkby though as Billingham, near the top of the league and in with a sniff of a promotion play off place, went flat out to rescue the game and Kirkby had some flat out defending to do which they managed to do to keep the visitors at bay. There was a worrying moment when centre Armstrong went in hard on the ground to win a fifty/fifty ball, did so but picked up an injury to his right leg and spent some minutes on the deck having treatment before hopping off the field between two subs and it didn’t look good, Ralston moved in to the centre position and Bargh came back off the bench onto the vacant wing.
Then in one of the moments of the match Kirkby scored their fifth try. Dave Maka had been in tremendous form throughout the game and was involved in defence on the Kirkby twenty two as Billingham surged forward with every man up but Maka claimed the ball and set off on a run down the left touchline.
There was nothing but seventy metres of grass between him and the line although he did have young winger Harry Huddleston running on his inside licking his lips in anticipation of the scoring pass, but it didn’t come. Billingham’s opposite winger had got across as Maka surged into the twenty two but it was an unequal contest as he brushed off the challenge to score. A hell of a run from a number eight but Maka isn’t your average eight, Pickthall completed the ceremonies with the conversion and it was 33 – 14 with twenty minutes to play.
A Pickthall penalty extended the lead to 36 – 14 which was probably a winning score but things didn’t go Kirkby’s way in the last quarter. Dan Armistead came off the bench to replace Dan Thompson in the front row as the visitors emptied their bench in a last assault and in defence Kirkby picked up two yellow cards in quick succession for technical offences. Thirteen men weren’t enough to keep the powerful and classy Billingham side out and they were over for their third converted try to make the score 36 – 21 with ten minutes to play.
Restored to fourteen that was enough though for Kirkby to close the game out in injury time with their sixth try. Created by the maestro Barton who called and controlled a move to create a three on two which put winger Bargh in near the corner flag for the try, Pickthall’s conversion was just wide but it was all over with the final score at 41 – 21.
A bonus point five point win which puts Kirkby firmly back in the mid table mix on 45 points in ninth place and hopefully puts to rest any talk of them being near the relegation zone. They weren’t there because they were playing badly but because they had played two fewer games than the teams immediately above them and they still have one game in hand. The recently postponed home fixture against fourth placed Hull although a win for Hull would leapfrog them to second and into the play off place and they will be going flat out for that at Underley Park next Saturday.
1 Elliot Horner
2 Matt Holyland
3 Dan Thompson
4 Gareth Gore
5 Matt Hughes
6 Craig Galbraith
7 Stuart Storey
8 David Maka
9 Ross Towers
10 Dave Barton
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Scott Armstrong
13 Tom Pickthall
14 Harry Ralston
15 Matt Bargh
16 Ryan Terry
17 Dan Armistead
18 James Fishwick