The annual Firpress Trophy game between Keswick and Penrith was played at Davidson Park on New Year’s Day, refereed sympathetically by Mike Firby. The away fixture on Boxing Day had seen a good win for Penrith who had made excellent use of their large pool of replacements. For this home fixture a number of fathers and sons were available, with each side having a similar complement of replacements, as well as fathers who are congratulated on their devotion to the game.
With a game to watch, Keswick Rugby Club supporting Amy’s Care, and the promise of some excellent raffle prizes after the game, the turn out of supporters for both sides was excellent. The stand and the clubhouse were full, boosted by 2 coachloads from Penrith, with plenty of supporters standing pitchside to enjoy the bright sunshine and excellent conditions. Ben Challis, sartorially dressed, was roaming taking photographs and an entertaining afternoon promised.
The early minutes were spent in the Penrith half of the field as Keswick put in a period of sustained attack, with Grant Thompson crossing for an unconverted try to the right of the posts on 6 minutes. This was followed by a good attack on the left from within Keswick’s own half, but the ball was held up over the line. Under pressure and retreating at the subsequent scrum Keswick ran the ball right through the backs for a final pass to Adrian Holme who, from 10 metres out, stepped inside 2 defenders to score with a flourish Chris Ashton would have been proud of. Again unconverted, Keswick led 10-0 on 10 minutes.
Another good attack, George Holme combining with dad Adrian and Andy Wallace ended just short with the final tackle taking Adrian into touch. The final play of the first 20 minutes saw a good run through centre field by the Penrith backs for Robbie Phillipson to score a try under the posts, converted by Kyle Ryder, to bring the score to 10-7 after which the elder statesmen made way for the younger players for the remainder of the match.
The change in players saw another good attack by Keswick but it ended on the Penrith 22 when the ball was stripped in a tackle and a 60 metre dash by Dan Morland resulted in an unconverted try on 28 minutes for Penrith to take the lead, 12-10. The dominance of the Penrith pack in the scrums meant that Keswick were retreating when they did win possession, making attacking from the set piece difficult. Penrith on the other hand, were able to pick up from the back and attack either round the side of the scrum or by running wide. The half ended with Keswick unable to profit from a line-out on the Penrith 5 metre line.
As the second half developed the desire to hang on, either to the ball in the tackle, or by not rolling away as the tackler, saw an increase in penalties, effectively stymying a number of promising attacks as one score either way could have been decisive. Both sides ran the ball as much as they could, as although this was a friendly game with only honour and a cup at stake, clearly none of the players wanted to be on the losing side.
An almost decisive move came after the scrums became uncontested when the Penrith No 8 picked up at the back of a scrum on their 10 metre line. The ball was passed to Henry Hadfield, their Fylde Flier, who evaded a few tackles in running 55 metres to under the posts, where he dropped the ball instead of touching it down, much to the amusement of many of the supporters of both sides.
Despite further valiant attempts by both teams neither managed to get on the scorecard in the second half and the whistle went on an excellent day’s rugby, with the only difference between the teams being a single conversion. Man of the Match was Penrith back row Josh Dowson, whose father Steve had played some 600 games for Keswick. After the game, in a still packed clubhouse, Keswick Chairman Trevor Keough presented the Firpress Trophy to Penrith’s Chairman Geoff Matthews. The raffle for Amy’s Care was a success, raising £750 to add to the money raised in December, making the overall total from Keswick Rugby Club in the region of £3,000.
Normal service for the 1st XV is resumed on Saturday 5th January as the Cumbria One League continues, with first place Keswick away to fourth place Wigton. Their opponents having been scratched from their league, the 2nd XV have a longer break, resuming against Leigh on Saturday 12 January, when both teams will be at home.
Updated 13:26 - 2 Jan 2019 by Allan Lambert