Kirkby Lonsdale 23-14 Wirral

Wirral at home 2019

A Personal View by Cammie Hodgkinson
Underley Park was resplendent under blue sky, spring blossom was in the hedgerows and the pitch was immaculate. No better sight than a well prepared and well marked out grass pitch and congratulations to all concerned with that, Dave Barton wasn’t able to run out on it so Tom Pickthall led the side on the day.

The game wasn’t bad either, Wirral kicked off towards the town and they had come to play pinning Kirkby in defence in the opening phases. The pressure didn’t ease until the first scrum five minutes in, it was a Wirral put in but a mighty and well timed heave from the Kirkby pack drove Wirral back and put a marker down, the visitors did heel the ball but it was bad ball and they knew the game was on.
That said, it was Wirral who put the first points on the board. A penalty from the deadly boot of their number ten James Annetts from around twenty metres made it 0 – 3 and on fourteen minutes Kirkby suffered again when Pickthall, going for an interception, was adjudged to have deliberately knocked down a Wirral pass and he was yellow carded.

But Kirkby were finding some rhythm, the fourteen regrouped and took the game to the visitors who were unable to profit during the ten minutes of their man advantage. Restored to fifteen Kirkby were turning the screw and on the half hour took the lead with a try from number ten Mike Fearon when he burst through the Wirral defence running round to touch down near the posts.

His conversion should have been a formality but a slightly leisurely approach to the kick gave Wirral runners a chance to get off the line and pressure, his last minute adjustment affected the strike and the ball hit the post and stayed out but Kirkby had edged ahead 5 – 3. Only to hand the lead back as the half drew to a close when a second Annetts penalty punished a Kirkby offside offence, it was 5 – 6 when the whistle went and during the break Kirkby would have been pondering on the good chances that hadn’t been taken.

Kirkby were out of the blocks quickly in the second half with a try in the left corner after just two minutes. Flanker Stuart Storey rounding off a short spell of forward pressure when he powered over the line, Fearon’s touchline conversion shaved the post on the wrong side and the Rams were back in the lead at 10 – 6.

Kirkby definitely had the better of the opening exchanges but it was Wirral who got the next score with a try in their left corner, the conversion was wide but the lead had changed again at 10 – 11 as the first quarter drew to a close. And it changed again on the half hour when a Kirkby drive at a scrum mangled the Wirral pack, Fearon slotting the penalty from twenty five metres to make it 13 – 11.

In the last quarter and with shades of the earlier away fixture in mind Kirkby were finishing the better and Wirral were trying to slow things down. A little frustrating perhaps but with thirty seven minutes on the clock Scott Armstrong broke the deadlock with a try following a powerful run to the line from outside the Wirral twenty two, Fearon’s conversion extending the lead to 20 – 11. There was time for each side to kick a penalty and when the final whistle went the score was 23 – 14, Wirral went home pointless and Mike Fearon was Kirkby’s Man of the Match.

A win which takes Kirkby past fifty points to fifty two although that is unlikely to improve next Saturday with the away fixture at second placed Blaydon. Blaydon are only one point ahead of Harrogate and they both have two games to play so Blaydon will be going flat out to take the maximum five points and their home record this season of racking up 522 points at an average of 43 per game suggests they might be able to do that.

This game was a capable all round performance from Kirkby based on scrum power and excellent defensive organisation. The backs got good go forward ball and generally used it well, there were exciting contributions from the two young wingers Harry Huddleston and Cameron Dale and contributions off the bench from Alex Briggs, Craig Galbraith and the ever improving Will Brown.

And there is time for a mention of the Kirkby 1stXV Physio, Christie Byrne, congratulations to her for recently achieving Care In Sport Level 3, the highest level achievable in the RFU.
1   Dan Thompson
2   Dan Armistead
3   Braden Schiller
4   Leandro Kwiczor
5   James Thompson
6   Josh Sheridan
7   Stu Storey
8   Alex Rogers
9   Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Tom Pickthall ( C )
13 Scott Armstrong
14 Cameron Dale
15 Andrew Bargh
16 Alex Briggs
17 Will Brown
18 Craig Galbraith
19 Sam Tallon