Aspatria 23 Keswick 7
By Allan Lambert
An 11 game winning run ends
After an 11 match winning run in the league and clinching promotion at home against Aspatria the previous week, the away fixture last Saturday at Aspatria proved one match too far for Keswick 1st XV. In conditions mostly best experienced in the warmth of a clubhouse the early stages of the match were a continuation of the closely matched contest that had seen Keswick top the league. In amongst the sunshine, the heavy rain, hail and strong winds made conditions difficult but didn’t prevent some exciting rugby.
For the first quarter both teams tested the other, trying to get good field position from which to launch an attack, but neither side was able to gain the ascendancy. Keswick’s pack, normally almost unbeatable in the set pieces, found the going difficult and both hookers struggled to provide good service at the line outs as the wind proved capricious. Down 3-0 from a Jack Clegg penalty, Keswick almost took the lead when a kick through and chase for the line ended with Ryan Weir just beaten to the touch down by a defender.
It was then Aspatria’s turn to attack and only stout defence kept them out until, unable to make progress close to the scrum, they ran the ball wide for Grant Bethwaite to score an unconverted try in the corner to make it 8-0 on 30 minutes. In worsening conditions, the final score of the half went to an excellently taken penalty by Clegg to extend the home side’s lead to 11-0.
At the start of the second half Keswick came back hard and an excellent 50 metre run by Ryan Weir ended with the ball run through the backs for Joe Bagnall to score a try converted by Andy Muir to cut the deficit to 11-7 on 47 minutes. The comeback didn’t last long as injuries took their toll of Keswick players in key positions and the Aspatria pack were able to drive forward before releasing the ball to the backs for Bethwaite to score his second, again converted by Clegg, 18-7 only 5 minutes later.
Still Keswick didn’t give up and continued to attack in the Aspatria half, but found the defence unwilling to concede. As the clock ran down and errors crept in, Keswick found themselves on the wrong end of a penalty decision 5 metres out on 70 minutes. Aspatria opted for the scrum and despite having had theirs dismantled by Keswick in the past, were able to reverse the tables for Matty Atkinson to pick up and drive over for an unconverted try, 23-7.
A final attack by Keswick was thwarted by a fine tackle by the Aspatria full back and they ended as deserving winners. Mathematicians will tell you that Aspatria could still be beaten to second place in the league by Cockermouth but realists won’t. As a result of this season’s probable final table, if Keswick’s preferred option for next season’s leagues is adopted by the RFU, Keswick will be playing in the North 1 West league together with Penrith at Level 6 and Aspatria will be in Lancs/Cheshire 1 at Level 7.
Saturday sees 2 cup fixtures at Davidson Park, the 1st XV facing Upper Eden in the Cumbria League Cup and the 2nd XV facing Tarleton, 3 places above them in the League, in their cup. Please note that the Rugby Club will not be open to the general public this Saturday (16th) for the televised 6 Nations as we have 2 home games that day. Unfortunately the clubhouse is only small so there is only room for players and supporters on this occasion.