Kirkby Lonsdale 25 – 22 Rossendale

Dale Trail
A personal view by Cammie Hodgkinson


Deceptively pretty at Underley Park because under the bright blue sunlit sky was a bitingly cold north east wind which cut to the bone. As to the game itself as things transpired it turned out that if ever there was a game of two halves this was it as fourth placed Rossendale got things under way kicking off towards the Town.


Kirkby took the ball cleanly but number seven Stu Storey was injured in the first minute although he was able to limp off, Callum Little coming off the bench as Kirkby applied the early pressure. A long range penalty across the wind was just wide after five minutes but stand off Mike Fearon made no mistake with a second penalty a few minutes later to put Kirkby ahead 3 – 0 with six minutes played.


A strapped up Storey re entered the fray and on fourteen minutes Rossendale had a sitter of a penalty in front of the posts but managed to miss it and as the first quarter drew to a close it had been mainly Kirkby. It became more Kirkby courtesy of a long range solo try from Scott Armstrong who took a pass just inside his own half in mid field and ran a looping run through Dale with a series of side steps, hand offs and dummies to score by the posts. Dale did get hands on him but he wasn’t having any of that and Fearon tapped over the conversion to make it 10 – 0.


A second successful penalty by Fearon this time from the twenty two line made it 13 – 0 on the half hour before Dale finally got on the board with a try. On the attack the Dale stand off Lewis Allen flighted a clever kick over the defence and into space for his right winger to catch and run in behind the posts, the conversion taking the score to 13 – 7.


As the half drew to a close and Dale sought to close the gap further before the whistle their skipper and number eight Dominic Moon picked up a yellow. In time added on a particularly ferocious passage of play came to an end with there seeming to be more bodies on the ground than there were standing and after a long period of treatment the most unfortunate was Dale’s stand off Allen who left the field on a stretcher.


Play eventually restarted and with forty seven minutes on the clock it was Armstrong again with an almost carbon copy run of pace and power which brought him his second individual try, the conversion skimmed the wrong side of the upright but on the whistle Kirkby had extended their lead to 18 – 7.


It was a beautifully flighted second half restart kick from Fearon which hung in the air just over the ten metre line and was gathered by Kirkby number seven Storey who went to ground and fed it back. Scrum half Ben Walker and Fearon were involved in a switch move down the short side which took the ball to Armstrong some thirty metres from the line and with plenty of defenders in his way but they couldn’t hold him and there was the hat trick try number three. All three of them gems from this powerful and gifted player, Fearon again adding the conversion to make the score 25 – 7 with only one second half minute on the clock.


However, that meant there were still thirty nine minutes to play. Up to that point Rossendale may have been playing like they expected to win, but they weren’t, at that point Kirkby may have started playing like they thought they had won, but they hadn’t and the balance shifted.


A fired up Dale hit the gas and chased the game with some ferocious rugby, particularly from their number seven Phil Mills with some almighty runs at the home side. Kirkby weren’t helped by yellow cards firstly to James Fishwick and later on to Stu Storey which meant Kirkby were defending with fourteen men for twenty of the forty second half minutes.


The Kirkby cause also wasn’t helped when influential scrum half Walker was taken out with a blatant late tackle as he cleared from behind a defensive scrum and he limped off to take no further part in the match. On top of that a kickable penalty also hit the post and bounced out but the main problem was Kirkby were having difficulty getting their hands on the ball and were forced into desperate defence.


On the half hour Dale crossed for an unconverted try to make it 25 – 12 and six minutes later closed the gap further to 25 – 17 with another unconverted try as full time approached. Kirkby were digging deep and tackling like demons but conceded yet another unconverted try as the game went into time added on with the score 25 – 22, Dale attempting a quick drop kick conversion from wide out just to get the game restarted. The faithful were hanging on to each other for support as extra time dragged on and there was relief and jubilation on and off the pitch when the whistle finally went  and Kirkby had done enough to take the win and the four points.


Kirkby now sit in eighth place with thirty two points and it is a measure of the competitiveness of the mid table of the Northern Premier League that the team in fourth place are only three points clear at thirty five as Kirkby head to an away fixture at Wirral next Saturday.


The clubhouse was rocking later as Phil Mills for Rossendale and Scott Armstrong for Kirkby received their individual man of the match awards, joined on the chairs by Kirkby’s Martyn Knapton who is moving permanently over the border to keep an eye on the Scot’s. Martyn is an ex Kirkby junior playing his way up the ranks and into the first team some years ago at only seventeen, a dependable and gifted player and he will be missed.


1   Braden Schiller
2   Dan Armistead
3   Braden Schiller
4   James Fishwick
5   Craig Galbraith
6   Dave Maka
7   Stu Storey
8   Alex Rogers
9   Ben Walker
10 Mike Fearon
11 Harry Huddleston
12 Tom Pickthall ( C )
13 Scott Armstrong
14 Harry Ralston
15 Martyn Knapton
16 Alex Briggs
17 Callum Little
18 Cameron Chapman