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Carlisle under 16s played Kirkby Lonsdale in the repeated long awaited county cup semi final at Warwick Road on Sunday 26th February.
With both teams at full strength there was going to be little between the sides in a physical contest showing some of the county’s highest skill levels on offer. Earlier in the season Kirkby took the spoils on home turf coming out winners 24-14 so went into the game probably feeling they had the edge.
It was a fantastic day for rugby at Warwick Road and Carlisle kicked off towards their clubhouse through the reliant Connon. From the kick off Kirkby knocked on immediately putting themselves under pressure. Carlisle saw an early penalty opportunity just go past the left upright from the boot of Connon.
Kirkby then sustained continuity from the Carlisle pack and managed to clear their lines on various occasions. However it was only a matter of time before Connon recognized an overlap on the blind side to put no.8 James Robson through to beat two tackles and score under the posts. Connon added the extras.
This early score seemed to lift the home side and minutes later they could have had a second score when scrum half Wainwright identified a lack of numbers on the blind side to put Connon down the line, his break and chip ahead for Howland bounced just unkindly preventing the West Cumbrian from gathering and going over. These early signs of danger seemed to awaken the Lonsdale players and they soon responded positively showing attack and pace through their back three.
They would have scored had it not been for some splendid tackling from full back Tom Coulthard. Kirkby battered away at the Carlisle line time and time again and should have came away with something, their option to run rather than take the points on occasions proving costly over the half. Carlisle withheld and cleared their lines going into the break leading 7-0.
The second half kicked off and some good Kirkby pressure led to their first three points through Cleary. Minutes later Carlisle earned themselves a penalty in Kirkby territory due to some indiscipline in the back line. Connon pushed over for another three points taking the score to 10-3. The game then went through a period were both teams went on the attack trying to get that next score and the game was ‘on a knife edge!’
Some thunderous tackling from Carlisle prop Lewis Fuller helped to establish some momentum back into the Carlisle players and when a clever kick through found winger Luke Davison charging on to the ball, he gathered and went in under the posts. With the extras added Carlisle led 17-3. However Kirkby hit back and took full advantage of the slender Carlisle blind side defence to score out wide. 17-8.
Carlisle forced another penalty but this time Connon could not convert. The end of the game got scrappy as fatigue started to set in. The game drew to a close with both sets of players walking off the park shattered following the intense contest up front and all over the park for the full seventy minutes. All players showed great spirit throughout the game as deserved recognition for that. Both packs arose to the challenge up front. In what was a great semi final Carlisle took the spoils for the second year running and will move on into the final.
After the match Carlisle head coach Jim Goode said “I was really pleased with the way the lads came out and performed today. They had to dig deep at times, particularly in the first half when we failed to clear our lines and put ourselves under un-necessary pressure.” Loyal supporter Andy Robson commented “It was a thrilling game of rugby to watch. In attack the Carlisle backs looked sharp and frightening. Coach Ben Blain has obviously got them well trained and playing together!”
A big thank you must be said to the society referee John Rogers. As well as all the volunteers helping in the kitchen all morning.