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Monday, 24 November 2014

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New-look Workington Town get off to a bright start at Swinton

Swinton 10 Workington Town 14: In many ways it was the perfect start for Workington Town, enjoying a deserved first victory in the Championship from their opening away trip.

Despite being short of pre-season practice, with only one serious work-out at Widnes, Town built on the promise they had shown in that friendly against the Vikings.

Their intensity never slackened from the opening minute to the final hooter and their defensive effort was particularly effective and pleasing to the coaching team.

With Ewan Dowes and Peter Lupton adding valuable Super League experience to that of last season’s hero Jamie Thackray, Town now have enough old heads to control and direct operations.

There are some willing younger players around them to suggest that Messrs Charlton, Oglanby and Barker have the right blend of youth and experience to make an impression at this higher level.

With such a keen and enthusiastic squad, who have trained extremely hard during the winter break, it was also good to see that the coaches opted to use only one of the three dual registration players originally offered by Widnes.

They were short of a winger so Declan Hulme was brought in and played very well, marking his Workington debut with a well-taken try. Surely that’s the way to use this new initiative – if you’re short in a certain position get a dual-reg man, but don’t take the five allowed just for the sake of it!

Town still have five of their own players to come into the squad and with the likes of Graeme Mattinson, Elliott Miller, Jamie Acton, Dan Rooney and John Patrick available, Charlton and co might not need to be on the phone to Widnes.

It’s still just the first game, of course, and it will be a long hard season at this level but if Workington can avoid serious injuries and maintain the discipline, commitment and fitness levels they showed at the Leigh Sports Village then they will surely be able to consolidate after their promotion.

By his own admission Town fans didn’t see the best of Lupton last season as he never really got into his stride after an injury-plagued start to the campaign.

But the south Cumbrian has trained hard this winter and was one of Town’s stand-out players in this opening day win. His Super League class brought him his try and he was frequently directing operations, throwing out some clever passes and generally giving plenty for Swinton to think about.

At the other end of the scale there was another sparkling performance from young hooker Callum Phillips who has taken to the pro game almost seamlessly.

Busy, lively around the park and clever with his passing he has been a breath of fresh air for Town, and most good judges are looking forward to him combining with Graeme Mattinson when he’s fit to resume.

To record this enterprising win, though, Town had to come from behind after conceding the opening try on 18 minutes.

Experienced Super League forward Paul Wood, one of three dual registration players in the Swinton line-up, sucked in the Workington defence on the right. Then when the ball was moved swiftly across the Town posts his Wolves’ team-mate James Laithwaite virtually strode over for a simple touchdown which Ryan Shaw converted.

It was a lead the Lions hardly deserved but within five minutes Town were level with a fine try out wide on the left. On last tackle Callum Phillips darted down the short side and slipped a pass to Hulme who went hurtling down the touchline before hurling himself over the try-line. Carl Forber landed a huge touchline conversion.

Brett Carter almost got over for Town when he jinked his way through, almost to the line but when he slipped a pass out it was to a Swinton player and the Lions were able to break clear.

But right on half-time Workington went in front with a very special try from Lupton. Twenty metres out he threw an audacious dummy, which half the stadium crowd took, before changing direction and slicing through for the try which Forber converted.

Town left the field to a rapturous sent-off from the 100 travelling fans from west Cumbria.

Those same supporters backed the team all the way in the second-half as the sides were locked in a tough, but entertaining battle for supremacy.

With Forber replaced by new-boy James Coyle, it was left to Carter to kick a 60th minute penalty from bang in front of the sticks. Experienced pair Lupton and Dowes had rushed forward to insist on the kick when it looked as though Town were going to take a quick tap.

Swinton always found it hard to penetrate the steely tackling of the Cumbrians but they did give themselves hope on 65 minutes when Martin Ainscough finished off a smart passing movement near the line. Crucially the wide conversion attempt was flagged just out.

There were some hairy moments in the closing stages of the game. At one point Town had to defend three successive sets on their own line but they did not falter, with the three points in their sights, and held on gamely.

Workington Town: Carter, D. Hulme, Mossop, Morris, Calderwood, Lupton, Forber, Dowes, C. Phillips, Walne, B. Phillips, Stack, Olstrum. Subs (all used) Coward, Thackray, Robinson, Coyle.

Tries: Hulme, Lupton. Goals: Forber (2), Carter.

Swinton: R. Hawkyard, Ormsby, Shaw, Medeika, Ballard, Ainscough, Watson, Morrison, Smith, Wood, D. Hawkyard, Laithwaite,. Barlow. Subs (all used) McCarthy, L. Hulme, Riley, Bridge.

Tries: Laithwaite, Ainscough. Goal: Shaw.

Referee: Chris Leatherbarrow, St. Helens.

Crowd: 601.

Star man: Callum Phillips - bright, imaginative, busy and has made a remarkably confident transition from amateur to pro ranks. Clearly a big part to play in Town’s progress this season.

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