Whitehaven 8 Keswick 19
By Allan Lambert
A win despite the rain and mud
Players and spectators alike were met by a sodden pitch and heavy rain for Keswick’s final game in the first part of Cumbria League One at Whitehaven on Saturday. Whitehaven needed to win and rely on Wigton to lose if they were to be in the top half of the league for the second part of the League which starts on February 9th.
Kicking off deep, Whitehaven immediately won a penalty as Keswick came in from an offside position at the breakdown, leading to the first line-out on the Keswick 22. Running the ball, Haven lost it through a handling error, something that the conditions were going to make an all too common occurrence as the game progressed. Giving away a penalty themselves for a similar offence they allowed Keswick to reach their 22. The cold and rain made the passing game difficult and both sides resorted to kicking, with Haven having the better of it as the wind and rain were in their favour.
The game’s first scrum went Keswick’s way as they drove Haven back 15 metres and gained a penalty. As both sides tried to attack and the intensity of the rain increased neither could make much progress as both defences were solid and dropped balls spoilt potential moves. A good attack by Keswick ended in the Haven half with lost possession. A kick to the Keswick 22 led to a penalty as Keswick came in offside and on 13 minutes Haven took the lead 3-0 with a Steven McConnell conversion.
Keswick’s response was to put pressure on in the home side half, forwards and backs combining in a promising move before the last player was forced into touch. A scrum 10 metres out gave Keswick an attacking chance but a knock on brought a scrum to Haven and they cleared. The next attack by Keswick, from a line-out, was a maul to the line and in the slippery conditions no fewer than 3 home players found themselves on the ground beneath the maul and eventually Keswick knocked on again to lose possession. Unable to clear from their scrum Haven took the ball back across their line to touch down and around this time had to replace an injured prop.
Still battling into the wind and rain, the Keswick scrum was in the ascendancy 5 metres out from the Haven line and as their scrum broke up the referee awarded a penalty try to Keswick to take the lead on 25 minutes, 3-7. The restart led to an exchange of kicks and a line-out to Keswick which took them into the opposition 22 but failing to release in the tackle relieved the pressure as Haven cleared. As the half ran down and Keswick were defending, a clearing kick was caught and run back by a Haven player from half-way. A number of missed tackles meant that he was able to score an unconverted try on the left for the halftime score to be 8-7 to Whitehaven as with the last kick of the half they failed to convert a penalty attempt.
The second half started much as the first had, with an exchange of kicks and an early penalty, allowing Keswick to attack through a maul from the line-out. However, the strong home defence kept the forwards at bay until a knock-on gave Haven a scrum 5 metres out. They failed to clear successfully and on 44 minutes another good drive by the Keswick scrum resulted in the award of a second penalty try, 8-14. The end to end play continued as the rain and wind eased off but there was now standing water on the pitch and scrums had to be moved to allow players to scrummage properly. A kick through by Haven was thwarted as Keswick turned the ball over, only to be forced across their own line to touch down. A good period of pressure by Haven followed but they were unable to turn position and possession into points and eventually Keswick cleared.
Much of the game was now being played in the Haven half as good kicking from hand combined with driving play meant Keswick had most of the possession. On 55 minutes Keswick turned down the chance to kick for goal from a penalty in front of the posts 20 metres out, opting instead for a scrum. That scrum made good progress before the ball was run left with George Holme looping round to create an overlap that allowed Joe Bagnall to touch down on the left for an unconverted try, 8-19 with about a quarter of the game left.
It was now Haven’s turn to camp in the Keswick half but with the conditions not conducive to good ball handling they were let down by dropped balls and knock ons. Rather than risk running the ball from deep, when they did get possession, Keswick kicked downfield and so Haven had to start all over again. With 10 minutes left a yellow card for a high tackle reduced Keswick to 14 players and Haven tried to take advantage but were unable to do so, the clock running down on a 8-19 win for Keswick.
With Wigton easy winners over Hawcoat Park the 4 teams playing off for promotion are Keswick (58 points), Aspatria (50), Cockermouth (40) and Wigton (33). Keswick’s first game is at home against Wigton on Saturday 9 February.
Whilst the 1st XV were at Whitehaven, the 2nd XV travelled to Fleetwood for their County Courier Services Division 2 game. The final result was a 12-12 draw which keeps Keswick in 7th place and with 2 games in hand. There is now a one week break in that league but there will be no time off, as the 2nd XV will play New Brighton in the Robinson Cup at Davidson Park on Saturday 2 February.