By Mark Hodgkiss
An afternoon of changing emotions
With games being to run out, a win was required against a Sandal team, who whilst eighth in the table, did not have the best form away from home
There were a number of changes to the Kendal team from the loss at Harrogate. Dini Noyo moved to scrum half, with Andrew Boardley going to the bench, and Dan Wilson starting in Dini’s place on the right wing. In the pack both the second rows were out, so Dom Musetti dropped back, with Billy Coxon coming into the front row, whilst Chris Evans got his first start of the season. Both flankers were changed, with Ben Dixon starting, and in a late change Robbie Collinson originally selected as hooker replacing Kirk Chettleburgh, with Jack Lashley coming off the bench to play hooker.
Kendal made a good start. Glen Weightman’s kick-off was knocked on by Sandal, and whilst this was missed by the referee, the pass from the ruck was also knocked on, giving Kendal scrum. Chris Downham picked up and set up a string of rucks under the post, then the ball was moved left, with Kris Bratton taking the ball on, before delivering the scoring pass to Myles Harrop. Glen Weightman’s conversion attempt from close to the touchline, was caught by the strong wind. 5v0
The re-start was a mirror image of the original kick-off with Kendal knocking on, to give away a scrum, from which Sandal moved the ball at pace, but the Kendal defence held firm, before conceding a penalty for offside in midfield, to give Sandal outside half James Ellar a kick in front of the posts for 5v3.
Sandal looked certain to score a second try, with a number of great breaks down the left, needing excellent last gasp Kendal tackling, leading to good Sandal offloads, but Kendal forced a penalty to clear their line.
Twice Glen Weightman chipped the ball through and just failed to gather his own kick. He then put a long kick into the corner to force a Sandal linout on their own line. Chris Evens stole the ball only for Sandal to immediately turned it over to clear.
Kendal’s second try came after twenty minutes. On a difficult afternoon for lineouts with a strong wind, and also only one second row playing, Dom Musetti did his job as stand in second row to take the lineout throw, then made ground. When the ball came out, Danny Barker wrong footed the Sandal defence, and drifted through a gap to score under the posts, with Glen Weightman adding the conversion. 12v3.
The lead was extended four minutes later, with a third try. Dini Noyo made a good run, the forwards then set up a number of drives near the line, before Billy Coxon broke away, before getting a pass to Jack Lashley, who went over from short range. From a similar spot to the first try, Glen Weightman put over an excellent conversion from near the touchline, despite the wind. 19v3.
Kris Bratton had made a number of good runs, when the ball had been kicked out of defence by Sandal. He then picked up what had appeared poor Kendal ball in their own half, and went on a long run to the line, before last gasp tackling dragged him down just short. With better options out wide, the forwards chose to keep the ball tight, and the opportunity went.
Another good attack saw Kendal spread the ball wide when the referee was already playing advantage. Ben Dixon was not able to gather the difficult pass on the corner flag, so after some debate, the decision was made to take the points with Glen Weightman adding the penalty. 22v3.
In first half injury time Sandal forced a number of penalties, and good ball retention stretched the Kendal defence, which initially held firm, but finally in the sixth minute of injury time, Sandal got their first try. 22v8 at halftime.
Sandal had the benefit of the wind in the second half.
Sandal came out at pace, and soon had the Kendal defence in trouble. After just two minutes and numerous phases of play, Sandal added a second try, which this time was converted. 22v8.
Kendal had to re-group, with Jack Lashley being forced off. Rob Quarry came on, with Robbie Collinson moving into the front row.
Sandal had had the better of the scrums in the first half, forcing an early penalty, but Kendal had settled and from a Sandal put in, in their twenty two, Dini Noyo managed to steal the ball from the back of the scrum, with the referee missing what appeared to be a knock on. Dini made ground and Ben Dixon did well to take a difficult pass, but the Sandal defence held firm.
Ten minutes after going off Jack Lashley was back, with a plaster across his nose.
Kendal had a number of opportunities, but good defence and a number of handling errors, meant that they could not get the fourth try, and were punished after twenty minutes, and from a penalty the Sandal pack drove over from a lineout. James Ellar added the difficult conversion, to draw the side level 22v22.
Sandal looked as if they were about to take the lead, with a two on one overlap on the left, only for the final pass to go astray to touch, instead of to the waiting player.
With ten minutes to play, Dom Musetti was forced off and Rob Quarry returned in his place.
With the Kendal team tiring, the Sandal fullback Jack Townend took advantage of some weak tackling, to weave his way through from close to halfway to score, and give his team the lead for the first time, with only five minutes of normal time to play. 22v29 with the conversion from James Ellar.
Five minutes later, Kendal lost their bonus point with James Ellar going over for a try which he converted. 22v36.
Not quite the end of the same fixture away last season, where Kendal snatched a win with the last play, but again instead of giving up, the team came back and played their best rugby of the half, with Dini Noyo and Glen Weightman involved several times, and the forwards working hard, whilst Sandal defended well to hold Kendal out, but finally a pass came out to Ben Dixon on the right, who went over for the fourth try to snatch a bonus point. With Chris Park, who has put over a number of late pressure kicks to get results over the years, left on the bench with Andrew Boardley, the key conversion was left to Glen Weightman, who held his nerve to put the conversion over and take a second bonus point.
A fairly even game, with Kendal having the better of the first half, whilst Sandal had the better team after half time, with both teams missing scores due to handling errors. A draw may have been a fairer result, but the two points picked up, are as good as if the team had held out for a 22v22 draw.
Only time will tell if this was crucial three points dropped, or two priceless points gained, at teh end of the season.
The bad news was the result at Vale was exactly what we did not want, a good Lymm win, with Vale also getting a try scoring bonus point, although they missed out on a double bonus point of their own by two points.
A tough away trip to Billingham in a fortnight, but there is still plenty to play for.
Your KENDAL MAN OF THE MATCH : Ben Dixon
Another excellent performance from Ben, crowned by being on hand for that last gasp try which saved something from the game
Dom Musetti was just behind, in a game of lots of choice, as only three players did not get a vote, and (I think) all three had performances worthy of a MoM on another day.
As he was not part of the original selection Ben does not appear on the stats for the game (the silly web system will let me remove players who were not there, but not add those who were. It also gave the final try (attributed to "unknown player") to Glen - Sorry outside of my control)
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