14 Apr Kirkby Lonsdale 38-17 Wilmslow
Out on a bonus point high
A Final Personal View by Cammie Hodgkinson
This four try bonus point win takes Kirkby to 57 league points which equals their points total in the previous season and gains them tenth place in the league. However, that total in the previous season was good enough for eighth place, this indicates that the Northern Premier League was a harder division this season and this is backed up by the relegation of local rivals Vale of Lune and Kendal, we will miss those local derby’s – but only a bit.
It seems an age, to me, since a somewhat reconstructed Kirkby side came away from the first game of the season at Wilmslow with a wobbly bonus point win. The side did settle but throughout the season faced further reconstruction when key players David Cooper-Dunn departed to live in Australia, Dave Maka took the opportunity to play in France, Ross Hobbs went to play in New Zealand and matrimonial duties took Martyn Knapton to Scotland. These circumstances say much for the depth and quality of the club’s playing strength in that Kirkby maintained a mid table position for most of the season.
Underley Park was again perfectly prepared and resplendent in the April sunshine for this the last league match of the season in front of a large and appreciative crowd. Kirkby welcomed opponents Wilmslow who
kicked off towards the town but it was Kirkby who struck first with only two minutes on the clock. They had been attacking down the left but when held near the line, scrum half Ben Walker spun a long flat pass infield to his stand off Mike Fearon who continued the move to the right. Skipper on the day Tom Pickthall took the ball on as they approached the line, he was he held but winger Cameron Dale like a shark who can smell blood had drifted in and tracked the move and when Pickthall was held he was there to take the pop pass and score his try. Stand off Mike Fearon kicked the conversion and it was 7 – 0.
Wilmslow hit a beautiful floating restart which allowed their runners to be in amongst Kirkby as the ball came down. The visitors came up with possession, the home side were under pressure from that moment and when Kirkby were penalised for coming in from the side at a ruck Wilmslow kicked the penalty from around thirty metres to make it 7 – 3 after seven minutes.
Three minutes later they took the lead, a missed tackle by Kirkby gave Wilmslow an attacking option and their number twelve Ethan Harding was in by the posts, the conversion a formality and the score was 7 – 10. But level again five minutes later when Fearon nailed a penalty 10 – 10.
On the half hour a high tackle by Wilmslow was penalised and this gave Kirkby the chance to put the ball into touch near the line on the grandstand side. A good catch from the lineout regained possession, this led to a sustained period of attack near the Wilmslow line but their defence was good and in similar fashion to the first try Kirkby put the ball down the line. Centre Ryan Terry took it on then timed a lovely slip pass to young full back Andrew Bargh who hit the line on an angle and was through for his first 1stXV try, great timing and skill from these two players. Fearon was again on target with the conversion and Kirkby were back in the lead at 17 – 10.
The next ten minutes took the game away from the visitors, Pickthall having an excellent game intercepted a pass to score his second try which Fearon, obviously, converted to stretch the lead to 24 – 10. Left wing Harry Huddleston then produced roars from the crowd with a solo effort from his own twenty two, a scorching jinking tackle breaking run down the line to cruise in behind the posts, Fearon again struck the conversion and it was 31 – 10 when the half time whistle went.
For the second half Lewis Williams, Sam Tallon and Will Brown came off the Kirkby bench and both sides continued to play open and entertaining rugby, champagne style at times which suited the festive atmosphere around the ground. With thirty minutes of the half played Wilmslow did narrow the gap with a converted try to make it 31 – 17 and they played good rugby throughout the game.
But Kirkby were never really troubled and it was quite fitting that young Will Brown rounded things off with his first 1stXV try when he picked up a loose ball some twenty metres out. Wilmslow did get hands on him but they couldn’t hold him and a looping run took him in by the left corner flag for the bonus point fourth try which left a difficult touchline conversion into the slight breeze. But guess what, dead centre from Fearon to conclude his 100% kicking record in the match and make the final score 38 – 17 when the referee Mr Adam Robson of the Yorkshire Society, who handled the game very well, blew for ‘no side’ and the league season was over.
But not the celebrations, in a boisterous clubhouse after the game former player Nick Meadows assumed the Master of Ceremonies role and, for an outstanding performance on his right wing, awarded the Man of the Match to yet another exciting young Kirkby player Cameron Dale. The quietly dominating Braden Schiller and the all action Josh Sheridan are returning home to Oz, we hope to see them again next season along with Tyran Fagan from South Africa if his visa application is successful.
For next season Morpeth have automatic promotion to the NPL as do Carlisle who haven’t done bad – for a City. Whilst Blackburn and Scarborough will scrap it out in the play off where it looks like Blackburn will have home advantage on a date still to be arranged.
And so we arrive at the end of another history making season. In the 2016/17 season Kirkby made club history by being undefeated throughout the season, not only undefeated but scoring four try bonus point wins in every game but one. A near perfect record which saw the squad amass the best points total in all English rugby in that season and propel the club into the Northern Premier League, level five in the RFU structure.
Kirkby Skipper and mid field maestro Dave Barton will be a very proud man in the middle of the new history. Where the relegation of Vale of Lune and Kendal rewrites the hierarchy of local and Cumbrian rugby and means for the first time in Kirkby’s 142 year history the club sits higher than these two local rivals, and at the top of Cumbrian rugby.
It may not always be that way – but that’s the way it is now in this historic time. A time worthy of celebration, of recognising the achievements the club has made and how it has achieved them. With patience, skill, dignity, politeness, respect, alongside a policy of creating promoting and sustaining mini and youth rugby which over time broadened the base of the club pyramid and created the platform for its modern success.
Kirkby’s capacity for celebration is legendary, those around here and those in far off parts know it and all will celebrate. At the same time there are those who through illness are incapacitated and can’t join in. Also, there are many ex players, administrators and supporters who lye in St Mary’s Churchyard, all would have wondered about a time like this and we do not forget them.
I might have been mistaken and it could have been a trick of the wind but as I walked by the Church on my way to the Orange Tree I swear I could hear cheering on the other side of the wall!
I haven’t been counting but I’ve been doing the match reporting for many years so it really is time for me to sign off and a new voice to emerge. It has been a privilege to serve in this small way throughout this period and I have enjoyed every minute, the high’s the low’s, the humour and the camaraderie and I say thank you to those who showed support during my time at this helm.
1 Dan Thompson
2 Alex Briggs
3 Braden Schiller
4 Leandro Kwiczor
5 Craig Galbraith
6 Josh Sheridan
7 Stu Storey
8 Alex Rogers
9 Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Tom Pickthall ( C )
13 Ryan Terry
14 Cameron Dale
15 Andrew Bargh
16 Sam Tallon
17 Will Brown
18 Lewis Williams