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Percy Park arrived at Warwick Road full of confidence after a good season so far. Having won 15, drawn 1 and lost 1, a sequence that has planted them as table toppers, they fully expected to stretch their dominance of league table by taking league points away with them from Carlisle.
Perhaps they thought it might have been an easy task, but they had to leave it until late in the game to secure the result. Overall, they were marginally the better team, but it was Carlisle that gifted them match as opposed to them winning it!
A heavy pitch, a result of recent heavy rains, probably put the chance of some open flowing rugby on the back burner, but nevertheless both teams tried to play some rugby but with varying degrees of success.
Early exchanges were pretty even, but it was Carlisle who were first to draw blood after 5 minutes when, following some heavy pressure on the visitor’s line, prop Martin Kalinowski barged over in the left hand corner to touch down. Grant Connon converted. Thereafter, Carlisale were put under a period of sustained pressure, but managed keep the assaults at bay, except that they gave away a penalty on the quarter hour mark. Centre Ashley Smith reduced the arrears.
That was the message Carlisle needed. Stirred into action they made several inroads into the visiting defence, but with no outcome. Too many wrong options and with little positive penetration; and their efforts were further thwarted with the loss of outside centre with an ankle injury. Harris was one of the few that looked likely to break down a stubborn defence, always at the heart of the action and strong in defence when needed.
Young fly half Grant Connon had a good game and put his side into the break with a penalty following a high tackle just on the 40 minutes. A lead of 7 points was never going to be enough to take the game and whilst Harris resumed after the break his comeback was shortlived and he had to retire with Jack Oddie coming on for his last game for the club (he is moving to Nottingham with his work).
Connon had the chance to add a penalty on 44 minutes but the effort went wide. Percy Park turned the screw somewhat and for much of the remainder of the game it was all hands to the deck, and as at Morpeth last week, the defence kept busy.
With little imagination from Carlisle, PP were allowed too much freedom and gradually they took hold of the game. At 53 minutes they levelled the score with a converted try from flanker Chris Reekie. Carlisle did try to redeem themselves, but the game started to go away from them when Smith added another penalty on 67 minutes. In front for the first time PP sniffed victory, and just as Carlisle seemed prepared to settle for a bonus point for losing by less than seven points, hooker Andy Dunn sealed the fate of the hosts’ with a try two minutes into injury time – Smith adding the extras.
Don’t run away with the idea that the league leaders are necessarily a good side, just that on the day they took their chances when they were allowed. By a narrow margin, they were worthy of the points, but Carlisle need to find a little more consistency if they want to make further progress.
Result: 10 pts v 20 pts
Half time score: 10 pts v 3 pts
Tries: Martin Kalinowski.
Cons: Grant Connon (1).
Pens: Grant Connon (1).
Starting XV and replacements
15 Max Connon
14 Joe Blaylock
13 Chris Harris (Jack Oddie)
12 Barry Earl
11 Dan Holmes
10 Grant Connon
9 Tim Hughes
1 Martin Kalinowski (Callum Hermeston)
2 Tom Graham
3 Martin (McGimpsey)
4 Mark Barron (Capt)
5 Paul Halliday
6 Dan Smithson (Mark Allan)
7 Bobby Sherlock
8 Tom Ritchie
16 Callum Hermeston
17 Mark Allan
18 Jack Oddie
PICK OF THE PACK: Dan Smithson
BEST OF THE BACKS: Grant Connon
NEXT MATCH: ON 19/02/2011
Carlisle V Northern
KICK OFF 2.15 pm