29 Sep Kirkby Lonsdale 24-10 Alnwick
A beautiful day at Underley Park, the pitch was perfect and the sun was lighting up the ground and drawing early autumn tints from the trees to complement this first ever fixture between the two clubs.
Alnwick kicked off towards the town and into a stiff breeze, a steepling and beautifully flighted kick which Alnwick’s number ten, Callum Burn, had obviously spent a lot of practice time perfecting. Kirkby didn’t take it cleanly and this gave the visitors a scrum and the early attacking advantage which they maintained for a number of phases, but although they threatened through forwards and backs inside the twenty two the Kirkby defence was sound and eventually a speculative kick from Alnwick gave Kirkby possession and they took play into the visitors half.
Under pressure Alnwick held onto the ball in a tackle and Kirkby’s number ten, Mike Fearon, opened the scoring with the penalty from around thirty metres and it was 3 – 0 after six minutes play. Burn’s restart kick again gave his runners a chance to get hands on the ball but this time Kirkby got it away and into touch on the Alnwick twenty two. They did palm the ball back from their throw but it went loose and into Kirkby hands and they drove for the line, Alnwick held the initial charge but a quick recycle came to flanker, Stuart Storey, who burst through to score by the posts from some ten metres out, Fearon adding the extras to make it 10 – 0 with eleven minutes on the clock.
Alnwick had a good chance to reduce the deficit when Kirkby went offside but the kickable penalty was pulled wide and Kirkby repaid the compliment moments later by missing one of their own. A promising Kirkby attack was halted by a knock on but Alnwick didn’t clear the danger and when they held on to the ball in the tackle Kirkby put the penalty into touch down the right around ten metres from the line.
Play was scrappy from the lineout and Alnwick eventually kicked down field where the ball was caught by Kirkby winger, Matt Bargh, who ran it back with a weaving run towards the line and then found hooker, Dan Armistead, with a pass. Armistead thundered on and it looked like he would score, he was tackled on the line but offloaded to winger, Harry Huddleston, who had no more to do than bend over to ground the ball for the try by the corner flag. Fearon’s conversion slid by the outside of the post but Kirkby’s second try had extended their lead to 15 – 0 on the half hour.
Alnwick did get on the board with a penalty five minutes later from their number eight, Ben Gothorp, to make it 15 – 3 but Fearon cancelled that out on the stroke of half time with one of his own and it was 18 – 3 when the whistle went.
The second half was a fifty/fifty affair, Fearon extended Kirkby’s lead after fifteen minutes with another successful penalty 21 – 3 before Alnwick’s number nine, Jonny Burn, scored their try as the game went into the final quarter. Gothorp adding the conversion to make it 21 – 10 before a few moments later putting in, in this writers view, a blatant off the ball late hit from behind on Fearon who soldiered on but clearly in some discomfort and needing periodic treatment for the rest of the match.
At 21 – 10 there might have been a few subdued alarm bells ringing as Alnwick flung everything they had at Kirkby and hearts would have been in mouths when they charged a Kirkby kick down just inside the home half. They then gathered the ball and went for the line where a last ditch tackle prevented the score, but they were still in possession and only a sustained period of heroic defence kept them out, Kirkby’s defensive qualities being a feature of the game.
This was Alnwick’s last real blow and as the game went into injury time Kirkby’s, Tom Pickthall, sealed things with a dead centre penalty from thirty two metres out to make the final score 24 – 10. The clubhouse was buzzing later as, Stu Storey, picked up the man of the match award but he would have been the first to say that this was a real team effort and Kirkby’s best performance of the season so far.
1 Braden Schiller
2 Dan Armistead
3 Ross Hobbs
4 James Thompson
5 James Fishwick
6 Dave Maka
7 Stu Storey
8 Alex Rogers
9 Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Dave Barton ( C )
13 Tom Pickthall
14 Matthew Bargh
15 Martyn Knapton
16 Dan Thompson
17 Craig Galbraith
18 Lewis Williams