Keswick 33 Wigton 24
By Andy Wallace
Penalty try hat trick
Saturday saw the first round of matches to determine which club gets promoted from Cumbria Division One, with Keswick 1st XV hosting Wigton at Davidson Park. The pitch drainage had worked perfectly as despite heavy rain overnight the standing water from the previous day had all drained away and both pitches were deemed playable, with the 2nd XV at home to Tarleton in the County Courier Services Division 2 North.
Awarded a scrum immediately after they kicked off, Wigton soon had a penalty and kicked for touch, won the line-out and mauled the ball to the Keswick try line. Unable to cross the line they were brought back for a penalty, but were unable to benefit from the next line-out and Keswick made a foray to the Wigton 22. From their put in at the line-out Keswick were awarded a penalty 5 metres out and opted for a scrum. Pushed back across their line, Wigton came offside to prevent a touch down and the referee awarded a penalty try to Keswick, 7-0 on 7 minutes.
Wigton responded well but were soon thwarted by poor ball handling and play alternated between the teams until a clearing kick by Wigton only reached their 22 and an attack by Keswick through the backs with some good handling to create an overlap saw Chris Potter score an unconverted try in the corner for 12-0 on 15 minutes. As possession was contested, both sides playing attacking rugby, Wigton seemed to have more than their share of dropped passes, which brought some promising moves to an end.
Staunch defence by Keswick kept the visitors out but only at the expense of a couple of penalties and from one of these they won the line-out and mauled across the line for Nathan Bell to touch down for a try, converted by Josh Leeson for 12-7 on 21 minutes. Out scrummed in the set pieces, Wigton were getting the better of the line-outs and a steal, followed by a penalty for a high tackle, saw them back into the Keswick 22 where from the line-out they ran the ball fully right, then back left for Lewis Plackett to score an unconverted try in the corner for 12-12 on 28 minutes.
Despite the ball not going 10 metres at the restart, Keswick took the scrum against the head and put together a good attack, getting into the opposition half for the first time in about 10 minutes where, benefitting from an initial penalty they mauled the ball 25 metres where they won another penalty. Having been unsuccessful in driving over from 2 line-outs from penalties 5 metres out, at the third penalty Keswick opted for a scrum. Another scrum ensued from that and as Keswick drove Wigton across their line they offended again and the referee awarded a second penalty try, for Keswick to get ahead again 19-12 and with half time approaching that remained the score.
Kicking off deep and finding touch, Keswick were unable to take advantage of the line-out 5 metres out and Wigton were awarded a penalty but failed to find touch, allowing Keswick to attack back. The forwards mauled the ball across the line for Dom Maguire to touch down for a try converted by Andy Muir to take the score to 26-12 after only 44 minutes. Wigton responded by getting back into the Keswick 22, for their own 5 metre line-out from a penalty. Mauled across the line but held up they won another penalty for coming in at the side which they tapped and drove across for Greg Wrathall to score, but the conversion attempt was unsuccessful, 26-17.
Not long after, use of the shoulder in a tackle saw a Keswick player yellow carded and this was followed by a period of pressure by Wigton who camped on the Keswick try line. It was then Keswick’s turn to put pressure on Wigton, running the ball from a scrum and being brought down just short of the line on the left. However, another penalty ensued with Keswick again opting for a scrum. As the Wigton pack were driven back and their scrum broke up the referee awarded the game’s third penalty try on 70 minutes, 33-17.
Again Wigton attacked, making excellent progress from their own 22 into the Keswick 22 where some excellent tackles, including a last-ditch one by Brian Storey, kept them out. They then attacked hard in the Keswick 22, again mauling across the line but not able to score. Brought back for a scrum at which they were driven back, they won 2 consecutive penalties which they tapped and ran but couldn’t breach the defence. With only 2 minutes left a Keswick player failed to roll away in a tackle whilst defending the line and it was Wigton’s turn to benefit from a penalty try, to bring the score to 33-24 which is how it ended.
This was a closer game than the score suggests but a bonus point win is a great start to the play-offs. With Aspatria going down at home to Cockermouth, Keswick’s lead at the top is now 12 points. Saturday sees Keswick away at Cockermouth who will no doubt be in confident mood after their win and playing with home advantage.
Whilst the 1st XV were winning, the 2nd XV were on the wrong end of a 15-31 score, not helped by having 3 tries disallowed. Nevertheless they still have one game in hand over the 2 teams directly above them. Saturday sees them travelling to league leaders Colne & Nelson who have lost only once this season so this will be a challenging fixture. Next 1st XV home fixture is against Aspatria on 2 March; a game not to be missed.