With the first team pitch frozen, the game was able to go ahead on the artificial pitch - excellent for rugby, not very good for watching
The hard overnight frost meant that the game would normally been postponed, but the new 4G pitch was used for the first time for a First XV game.
Ben Leacock and Brett Ashley returned after injury, whilst Jacob Sutton came in at hooker. Danny Barker, Chris Downham and Matty Houghton, who had all been forced off with injuries at Hull, all started. James Gough returned on the bench after being unavailable due to work commitments.
Birkenhead Park, started the day twelve points and two places below Kendal in the final relegation place, but had picked up a losing bonus point against Ilkley last weekend.
Park opened the scoring after three minutes, with a penalty after Kendal had been caught offside. 0v3
Kendal came straight back and had an opportunity to draw scores level, but the kick failed.
Kendal stayed on the attack, and Glen Weightman went through a gap and passed to Liam Hayton, who whilst tackled, drove to the line, but could not get the ball down. Following the resulting scrum the ball was knocked on, to allow Birkenhead Park to clear the pressure.
The Kendal score finally came after ten minutes of play. Matty Houghton made a good break, but had the ball stolen from him in the tackle, but Jacob Sutton quickly stole the ball back, and set up Glen Weightman, who broke through the Park defence to score, but could not add the conversion 5v3.
Jacob Sutton was forced off for a short time for attention to a cut, with Alistair Thompson coming on, until Sutton was ready to return.
Birkenhead Park had the better of play, frequently keeping control of the ball through many phases of play, but rarely putting the Kendal defence in any danger. Regular handling errors and poor kicking giving the ball back to Park, meant Kendal could not get any period of control.
Despite being forced to defend for so long, it was Kendal who increased their lead at the end of the half. There was a poor tap down from a lineout throw, but Dini Noyo tidied it up and broke through, when he was stopped Jacob Sutton was in support and went through several tackles to score in the corner. Glen Weightman put over the difficult touchline conversion. 12v3.
It took only five minutes of the second half for Kendal to add a third try. The ball was moved quickly, and when it came to Nathan Wooff, he managed to jink through the defence, changing direction several times to evade tackles to score under the posts. Glenn Weightman added the conversion to stretch the Kendal lead. 19v3.
Birkenhead Park continued to play well, and finally after a long period of pressure in the Kendal twenty two they went over in the corner for an unconverted try. 19v8.
Kendal made their first change, with Chris Park coming on in place of Brett Ashley, with Nathan Wooff moving onto the wing.
Kendal continued to put themselves under pressure, by kicking ball away to allow Park to mount more attacks, keeping the ball in hand.
Chris Park was soon called into action, to make a tackle to stop a Birkenhead break down the right wing, but the ball was recycled and moved to the left for another try, to reduce the gap to one score. 19v13
Nerves were soothed when Birkenhead were penalised for a high tackle, and Chris Park put the kick over, to increase the gap to beyond a single score again. 22v13.
Birkenhead started to find more gaps in the Kendal defence, but a mixture of poor decisions and excellent tackling back kept them out, but finally with five minutes to play Park went over for a converted try. 22v20
Kendal brought on Alistair Thompson and James Gough for Matty Houghton and Danny Barker, and Kendal had their best spell of pressure of the half, and looked as if they were about to add the vital fourth try to seal victory, only for several players to be stopped on the try line. Then a pass from Glen Weightman to Dini Noyo was adjudged forward, giving Birkenhead a scrum near the line.
The ball was moved into the centre, and Park ran from their own line, breaking through the Kendal defence and a score looked certain, but somehow Chris Downham got back to drag the player down.
Downham was then yellow carded. Rather than attempt the penalty, which if successful would have given them the lead, Park put the ball to touch for a lineout.
When they were stopped Kendal were penalised again. Birkenhead were offered a much easier penalty, but despite calls from their bench, the spurned the kick for victory, and went for a scrum.
Despite it being the same referee who had officiated at Kendal’s late win at Sandal, this time the gamble did not pay off, and a Park handling error brought the game to a close.
On paper this was a bonus point dropped, but out on the artificial surface this was certainly three points gained, and Park will be desperately disappointed to be leaving with just a single losing bonus point, despite dominating much of the game.
After a good performance in defeat last week, this was a poor display in victory, and the team will have to play a lot better next weekend against Kirkby Lonsdale, if they are to get a first win on the grass of the main pitch. The good news is we, and they, know they can – whilst the team also seemed to come through without any further injuries.
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