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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Better from Netherhall but they’re still defeated

THREE Cumbrian sides returned to rugby action on Saturday with only two games going ahead in the North Lancs Cumbria League as the weather took its toll again.

Netherhall put up their best performance of the season when they were narrowly beaten at home 21-15 by Keswick.

Upper Eden travelled out of the county to Manchester and lost 14-7 to Eccles who are up to fifth but nine points behind leaders Wigton.

At Maryport, Netherhall started well but fell behind on six minutes when John Hine kicked a penalty for Keswick.

The visitors were without six regulars – four of them in the pack – and it showed as Netherhall’s scrum was always more solid.

Netherhall did well from the line-outs in the first-half but hardly got any ball from that source in the second half. With a narrow lead Keswick tried to move the ball deep in their own half, but it was slow ball and Netherhall pressured them well.

Gaining possession fly-half Paul Atkinson created a gap in midfield and put Simon Irving into space and the young centre accelerated through to score a fine try which Liam Vickers converted.

Then a forceful run by Ryan Robertson, well supported by Phil Dixon, resulted in the visitors conceding a penalty wide out on the left. Vickers put it over for a 10-3 lead.

That lifted the home side and they were soon on the attack again. Good work by Jonathan Burnyeat down the left was defended well by Keswick but the ball was picked up by the speedy Mark Orchard who was tackled short of the line.

Keswick’s defence had done well again to prevent the home side scoring but they also counter-attacked effectively.

A great break and dummy from hooker Ashley Gaskell saw him power away down the right side and winger Bruce Rigby was supporting well to take the pass and score. Hine’s fine conversion put Keswick level.

Keswick gave a senior debut to 17-year-old Harry Hancock and he showed up really well with some positive running.

From one break he dribbled into the corner and forced Netherhall to concede a five-metre scrum. Arran Thompson and David Ray both linked strongly from the back of the scrum and second team skipper Ben Bentham completed the back-row move by scoring the try which regained the lead for Keswick.

Netherhall were scrapping for everything, however, and some good work by Nicky Dixon, backed up by Ian Gorley, ended up with them putting heavy pressure on the Keswick defence.

Then scrum-half Tony Nicholson put in a well rehearsed chip for the corner and the speedy Vickers raced over to collect and score in the corner.

The conversion was pushed wide but in this torrid season so far Netherhall had the luxury of being all square 15-15 at the interval.

The second half was played with the same ferocity as the first with both defences on top. For Netherhall Jamie Nicholson excelled with some great covering and tackling.

The game went from end to end but there were no further tries and it was Keswick – who had more territory than their hosts but who lacked the sharpness to take advantage – who kicked two penalties.

Hine won the game with successful kicks in the 50th and 70th minutes.

Netherhall never gave up looking for the converted try which would have given them victory and were still forcing the game in the Keswick 22 when the final whistle went.

On this very spirited performance Netherhall should not be fighting relegation.

Fixtures - North One West: Burnage v Aspatria.

North Lancs Cumbria: Aldwinians v Workington, Keswick v Kirkby Lonsdale, Oldham v St Benedict’s, Wigton v Netherhall.

Cumbria: Millom v Gosforth Greengarth, Moresby v Egremont, Whitehaven v Creighton, Wigton Wanderers v Cockermouth, Workington Steelers v Aspatria Eagles.

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