Wigton 20 Keswick 24
By Allan Lambert
An end-to-end game to end the season
Keswick’s final league match of the season away at Wigton proved to be a cracker with the lead changing hands 3 times and neither side getting a comfortable distance in front at any stage. In cold and breezy conditions the dry surface meant that the spectators were hoping to see some good running rugby and they were not disappointed.
Keswick kicked off into wind and with the ball going dead the first line out was to Wigton. However they were beaten in the air, as they also were in the second line out, again on their throw in, as Keswick made an early statement by keeping possession and staying in the Wigton half of the field. From an early penalty Keswick mauled from the line out before giving the backs a run, but the defence held firm.
The first few scrums went with the feed though it was clear that Keswick were the better side in the set piece. A penalty to Wigton 35 metres out on 13 minutes was tapped and run left for them to take the lead 7-0 with a well taken try by Elliot Armstrong, converted by Josh Leeson. The incomplete tackles that had plagued Keswick the previous Saturday against Cockermouth were again apparent and created opportunities for Wigton as well as penalties as Keswick offended. A kick to the corner from one gave Wigton a line out 5 metres out which they mauled to the line but were unable to cross. Given another penalty they tapped and mauled but then gave away a penalty themselves for not releasing in the tackle. This was 2 very evenly matched sides which had the measure of each other in this fourth meeting of the season.
Having cleared to the 10 metre line Keswick overthrew at the line out giving Wigton an attacking opportunity which they took, having the upper hand in this middle 20 of the first half. However, as the Keswick scrum became more dominant it followed one win against the head with a penalty for Wigton coming up. A good attack on the right ended with a knock forward and a scrum to Wigton in their 22 but they were still under pressure in the tight. Opting to use the wind to kick to clear, the ball was caught inside his 22 by Andy Wallace and run back to the half way line where Wigton gave away a penalty. The ball failed to find touch and that gave the home side the chance to get back to the Keswick 22 where a knock on ended their attack. Attempting to run the ball from deep Keswick gave away a penalty on 32 minutes which Leeson converted for 10-0 home lead.
Returning to the Wigton half a penalty to Keswick took them to the 5 metre line where an excellent line out catch by Carrick Wharmby was mauled across for Dom Maguire to touch down for an unconverted try with 3 minutes of the half left; 10-5 which is how it stayed at half time.
The second half started badly for Keswick as on 42 minutes a good break on the left by Wigton aided by a missed tackle allowed Oliver Lewis to touch down in the corner to extend the lead to 15-5 as the conversion attempt was missed. Keswick responded with a good attack on the right before picking up at the back of a scrum and passing the ball out to Oli Clark who made a good run on the right to reduce the deficit, the conversion missed, 15-10 on 48 minutes.
Wigton came back well and took advantage of a misjudged clearance kick by Keswick that went dead, resulting in a scrum to them on the Keswick 22. From there they reached the Keswick line but were adjudged to have knocked the ball forward and dissent converted the scum to a penalty to Keswick. The end to end play continued and on 57 minutes Ryan Weir made an excellent run on the right before being brought down short. With the Wigton defence caught out of position, the ball was run left for captain Aaron Thompson to score to the left of the posts with the conversion by Lewis Thompson giving Keswick the lead for the first time, 15-17.
Poor handling and tackling caused Keswick problems with Wigton looking to regain the lead as this exciting match entered the final quarter. Winning the ball at a line out on their left on the Keswick 22, Wigton ran the ball right for Oliver Lewis to score his second try for Wigton to retake the lead, 20-17, the wind proving stronger than the attempted conversion. With 15 minutes now left this contest was proving to be gripping.
Keswick responded immediately, with Wigton knocking on from the restart. Picking up at the back of the scrum Keswick passed the ball out to the right for Ryan Weir to outpace his opposite number then run round to touch down close to the posts, retaking the lead for the visitors. The conversion by Lewis Thompson extended that lead to 4 points, 20-24, which was not comfortable in a game as close as this one. One try either way could settle it.
A high tackle penalty saw Keswick win a line out 10 metres out but in the maul from the line out the ball carrier became detached and rejoining made an accidental offside which Wigton used to get 45 metres upfield with just a few minutes left. However, they could not make further progress and soon found themselves back in their own 22 where a kick to touch brought the final whistle and the end of this season’s league games for both sides. Keswick’s record in Cumbria League 1 is played 20, won 17, drawn 1 and lost 2, winning the league by a clear 14 points. Unless things change over the summer, next season should see Keswick playing at Level 6 in North One West, the highest level the club has ever reached.