Keswick 22 Cockermouth 14
By Allan Lambert
Two well-matched teams in attack and defence
After the flooded pitches and postponed matches from the previous weekend it was good to see 2 games being played on firm playing surfaces on Saturday at Davidson Park, the day the President of Cumbria RFU, Michael Neal, chose to visit the club. The 1st XV faced Cockermouth for the 4th time this season, in Cumbria League 1A and the 2nd XV’s opponents were Tarleton, 3 places and 13 points ahead in the league, but in this match playing in the semi-final of the Robinson’s Brewery Trophy. Both Keswick teams were short of a few regular players, as were Cockermouth, whilst Tarleton were at full strength.
Keswick kicked off deep and were almost immediately awarded a penalty on the opposition 22 which they kicked to the corner. Cockermouth won the line-out against the throw and ran the ball before kicking into the Keswick half where full back Chris Potter caught it and ran back before passing it to Ryan Weir, on the unaccustomed left wing, who cut inside to run through the Cockermouth defence and score a try under the posts, converted by Andy Muir for a 7-0 lead on 3 minutes.
The first scrum, centre field, showed Keswick’s early dominance, pushing Cockermouth back and gaining penalty advantage. Despite making some 35 metres upfield that was not considered enough of an advantage and play was brought back for a penalty kick that failed to find touch and was run back. Losing possession Cockermouth were again penalised, in the same spot, for a high tackle and again the kick failed to find touch and was run back.
On 10 minutes Cockermouth were awarded a penalty for a high tackle, won the subsequent line-out on the 22 and ran the ball infield for John Irving to cut inside and touch down under the posts, converted by Ed Gate to level the scores at 7-7. Two very evenly matched sides were competing and playing attacking rugby but coming up against well drilled defences. One of the downsides of this season’s Cumbria League is that by the time teams meet for the 4th time they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which can close a game down. Both sides were determined to come out on top though and this was undoubtedly a close-fought and exciting game.
As the first quarter ran on, Keswick camped for a while in the Cockermouth half and put together a number of attacks but these were neutralised by the defence until in doing so they gave away a penalty just inside their 22 which allowed Muir to give Keswick the lead again, 10-7 on 20 minutes. Cockermouth responded well and put their own pressure on in the Keswick half, their forwards attacking the line but unable to breach it. Eventually they were awarded a penalty for offside 10 metres out which they kicked to the corner but were unable to turn position into points.
This was a day where good kicking was necessary to gain field position, but for both sides the kicking resembled the curate’s egg as not all went where they were intended, opening up opportunities for the receivers. Potter and Weir combined again on the left, making excellent progress until a Keswick player was taken out off the ball and much to the spectators’ surprise the penalty was give the other way, allowing Cockermouth to clear. Neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage and the half ended with Keswick having a 3 point lead but by no means comfortable.
The second half started with an early attack by Keswick but that was thwarted when they gave away a penalty. However, they were not to be denied and when some good forward pressure was unable to make the final yard, stand-in scrum half Matty Roper made a quick pass to stand-in stand off Muir who crashed over on 45 minutes and then missed the conversion from almost in front of the posts. They all look easy when you’re stood on the touchline, but a gap had now opened up and at 15-7 Keswick were now 2 scores ahead.
With one exception each way, the scrums went with put-in though in general Keswick had the upper hand. Awarded a penalty on 57 minutes the attempt on goal went wide but almost immediately another penalty was kicked to the corner where the line-out was well won by Karl Smyth and a rolling maul set up with Roper at the back and he was able to touch down to take Keswick 3 scores ahead as Muir kicked the extras to extend the lead to 22-7.
Teams are most vulnerable immediately after scoring and Cockermouth took advantage of this as from a tap penalty just inside their half they ran the ball left where an excellent break saw Mark Watson touch down under the posts, converted by Gate to close the gap again, 22-14, with some 17 minutes left. Both sides continued attacking and a high ball kick by Keswick saw 2 players from each side competing with the inevitable result that one player ended on the floor. The referee saw nothing wrong though and as the ball had gone into touch, the result was a line-out to Keswick on the Cockermouth 22.
Much of the remaining play was in the away side half and an excellent interception some 30 metres out by Mike Tait saw him heading for the posts, but in a race between a prop and a back the latter is likely to win and he was brought down some metres short of the line with the support players unable to take further advantage. Another Keswick attack from a quick scrum got them back near the Cockermouth try line but again the defence held and the final whistle went on a close fought game with Keswick the victors 22-14.
This was Keswick’s fourth meeting with Cockermouth this season and fourth win. On Saturday Keswick host Upper Eden at Davidson Park in the re-arranged League Cup game, with the winners at home against Cockermouth just one week later. It is therefore possible that the teams will meet again, for the fifth time this season.
Keswick 2nd XV hosted Tarleton 2nd XV in the semi-final of the Robinson Brewery Trophy on Saturday and their opponents are having a good season. Short of a few regular players and facing a full strength opposition this was always going to be a difficult game for a young and inexperienced Keswick side that would struggle against a powerful and more experienced team which used its larger players to break tackles and get over the gain line. The bright spot for Keswick in the first half was an excellent break from James Addyman, who outpaced the defence, stepping round the fullback to score under the posts. Down 7-20 at half time, they competed well all game, never giving up, and kept Tarleton down to 2 further tries in the second half but were unable to score again themselves, despite some good hard play and lost 7-32. Getting this far in the cup has been an excellent achievement for the team and congratulations are due to Tarleton on progressing to the final.
Saturday sees the Keswick Old Boys lunch before the day’s 2 home games. The 1st XV face Upper Eden in the rearranged League Cup fixture and having scored 60 points against them in the 2 league meetings this season whilst conceding 5, confidence should be high. The 2nd XV, in 6th place in the County Courier Services Division 2 North, take on Aldwinians, 2 places above them. The away fixture in December saw Aldwinians win by only 4 points so a close match is anticipated. What better day to come to Davidson Park to see some excellent rugby?