By Mark Hodgkiss
A Nathan Wooff conversion in the last minute of normal time won the Cup for Penrith.
Having reached the final after playing just one game, (at Keswick in August), Kendal faced a Penrith team who had also not had the best of seasons.
Ben Dixon came in for Matthew Charters at No.8, whilst Myles Harrop and Chris Park returned in the back division. Nathan Wooff was in the Penrith team at fullback, whilst a number of ex-Kendal players were on the touchline in the Penrith coaching team, and ex-Penrith player Kris Bratton started for Kendal.
After the very wet evening for the Final against Carlisle at Keswick last season, this time it was a warm sunny afternoon in Carlisle.
Kendal started well, with the forwards regaining Glen Weightman’s kick off, and putting a number of phases of attack together. When they lost the ball, Penrith did the same keeping the ball tight, with forwards making short advances.
Kendal took the lead after ten minutes. A Glen Weightman kick up field was chased, and Nathan Wooff took too long on his clearance kick allowing Ben Dixon (?) to charge it down. The ball ended up in the Penrith in-goal area, and whilst a Penrith player got back to gather the ball, he was forced to touchdown for a Kendal scrum. Kendal set up a number of short drives from the scrum, with Robbie Collinson (?) last to get up after the try was awarded. Chris Park added the conversion. 7v0.
Ten minutes later Penrith were back level. Scrum half Ed Swales took a penalty quickly and made ground. The powerful Penrith pack set up a number of drives on Kendal line, and whilst they were stopped, when the ball came back Ed Swales found a gap to go over, with Nathan Wooff adding the conversion. 7v7.
The Penrith pack was now getting on top, keeping the ball tight and making ground, meaning Kendal had little opportunity to clear.
Kendal mistakes were to contribute to Penrith taking the lead after half an hour. Ben Dixon stole Penrith ball, but instead of keeping the ball, it was immediately kicked away to allow Penrith to counter attack. When the ball was kicked through a number of Kendal players failed to deal with it, and the ball went loose, and was kicked through to the line by Penrith, where Kendal were forced to concede a scrum. The Penrith forwards then moved the ball right towards the post, only for it be quickly moved back to the left wing, where a player made a good run to score, and crucially having crossed near the corner, was allowed to go around to make the conversion easier, with Nathan Wooff again making no mistake. 7v14.
Inexplicably, having taking control by keeping the ball tight, Penrith changed their game plan and started kicking the ball away, with two going straight to touch. They were let off by the Kendal lineout disintegrating, with throws failing to find their man, with no second row jumpers in the team.
Penrith had a let off when a second Nathan Wooff clearance kick was charged down, then when a Penrith player gathered the rebound and tried to clear to touch from behind his own posts, his kick was also charged down, but again fell favourably to a Penrith player who was able to clear to touch.
Kendal won the lineout and set up a drive only, but there to be a sharp whistle from the referee, which appeared to signal foul play. He consulted the touch judge, but the penalty was for offside rather than anything worse. Chris Park added the kick to narrow the gap to 10v14 as the game entered injury time.
In injury time Kendal had an opportunity, when Ben Dixon, who was having a good game, again stole Penrith ball and made ground. Steven Nelson took the ball on, but was forced into touch near the line.
At half time Penrith stayed out in the sun, whilst Kendal headed for the shade of the side of the squash club, which almost fooled the officials, as a touch judge was dispatched to get them back from the changing room, when Penrith were ready to re-start, only to be called back by the referee.
Early in the second half, Kendal seemed to up the pace and put the Penrith defence under pressure, but could not add to their score. A Chris Park penalty came back off the post, and there was a suggestion that having hit a Penrith player, it was picked up by another in front of him in an offside position, but neither I or the referee spotted this.
After a quarter of an hour, Jack Lashley was forced off with an injury, to be replaced by Billy Coxon, who had already been waiting to come on, whilst Archie Barber replaced Robbie Collinson at the same time.
Kendal had a let off when the Penrith forwards set up a long drive from a lineout. When it was illegally stopped, Nathan Wooff was unable to put over the kick stretch his teams lead.
After twenty minutes Kendal had the lead back. From a Penrith scrum in their twenty-two, Kendal managed to put pressure on the Penrith outside half, forcing a poor short clearance kick, which failed to find touch. Chris Evans took the kick cleanly, and the ball was moved to the left. The Penrith defence seemed to be up too quickly, but it made no difference as Myles Harrop, made a run then followed his own kick to touchdown in the corner. Chris Park’s difficult conversion kick crept over. 14v17.
More good chasing, saw Penrith caught offside, and Chris Park added the penalty 14v20 with just over ten minutes to play.
The Penrith forwards then took control again, keeping the ball tight with good drives from lineouts forcing more penalties to take them to the line. The Kendal defence did well to withstand a number of attacks from short range, but Penrith made no handling errors to keep hold of the ball to launch more attacks, and finally when the ball came out their outside half went over for a try, to bring his team to within a point, leaving Nathan Wooff with a conversion kick from just to the right of the posts, and he made no mistake. 21v20.
Kendal made a double substitution with Jordan Johnson replacing Wayne Ngbane and Dan Shorrock coming on for Mark Carruthers.
Kendal were not finished, and won the re-start and set up a number of attacks with Jordan Johnson, moving the ball quickly to prevent the Penrith forwards a chance to disrupt, as they had earlier.
When awarded a penalty, it was outside the range of Chris Park or Glen Weightman so was instead put to touch.
A good runs by Kris Bratton and Danny Barker, saw the ball moved to Dan Shorrock on the right wing, but he was unable to beat the covering defence. When the ball came back, the Penrith back line were up very fast, and Glen Weightman snatched at a drop goal as if expecting a penalty to come, but it didn’t.
Instead a bit of quick thinking by a Penrith player, saw the restart taken short to prevent giving the ball back to Kendal, and the Penrith forwards slowly protected the ball, until it was possible to put the ball to touch for victory.
A close end to a close encounter, between two evenly matched teams, who will be competing at the same level next season, but the Penrith forwards skill at keeping ball, just edged the game for their team.
Your KENDAL MAN OF THE MATCH : Ben Dixon
Votes for ten of the squad, but Ben came out just above the rest, he even got a mention from the Chairman of the Cumbria RFU in the presentation .