Cumbria suffered a big defeat when they opened their County Championship programme at Wigton against Durham.

But despite the 64-5 scoreline team manager Mark Richardson had plenty of praise for the side who had been put together at short notice.

Richardson said: “At 1pm – two hours before kick-off – we were still looking around for players to make up the squad. In the end we had 21 when you are allowed 22, and full marks to those who came in late.

“There were a number of young lads and when they got their chance they certainly acquitted themselves well against a big, useful side.

“Durham had a set of big forwards and possessed some speedy backs who play at a decent league level so we were always going to be up against it. They scored over 50 points against us last year.

“I don’t know what the problem is about getting players to commit to county rugby but it’s getting harder. We only had nine at the first training session with 18 for the second get-together on the Thursday ahead of the game.

“Maybe it’s because the league season goes on longer than it used to and lads are ready for a break.”

Durham had opened up a 30-0 lead by half-time and Cumbria were well behind when they scored a consolation try.

But it was as a result of some good work by the forwards, particularly Wharfedale’s Matty Houghton at open-side flanker. He took it on and had support from centre Jack Akrigg (Preston, ex-Kirkby Lonsdale) who scored. Houghton had an outstanding game for Cumbria.

“Two of the young lads who came on in the second half, James Sewell and Adam Brough (both Cockermouth) acquitted themselves really well and Sewell was involved in the try,” said Richardson.

As a unit the Cumbrian scrum functioned well enough throughout with skipper Mark Irving (Fylde, ex Aspatria) the cornerstone in the front row.

The back row, with Houghton leading the way, had solid contributions from two debutants – Sam Farrer (Chester, ex-Egremont) and Greg Wrathall (Wigton).

Part of the problem facing Cumbria was that their team included only four players from the three leading clubs in the county – Kirkby Lonsdale, Kendal and Penrith.

Whereas Durham could draw on a large contingent from Mowden Park who finished runners-up in the National League Division One.

It doesn’t get any easier for the Cumbrians who travel to Leicestershire on Saturday for their second game. Their hosts had opened their programme with a 33-26 win in Staffordshire.