Magnificent End to the Season
By Mark Hodgkiss
Hopefully some of the new coaching set up, were there to witness the massive potential which could be available to them next season.
For those of us who rarely get a chance to see the Development Team in action, it was difficult to work out the significance of the game, but the league had split earlier in the season and this was a game between the two best teams in the lower conference.
Nine of the team had some First XV experience this season, but only Mark Carruthers and Chris Evans started the final league game against Ilkley, whist they had been joined by Ben Dixon for last weekend’s narrow Cup defeat to Penrith, although a number of others had been on the bench in both games.
It was not a good start for Kendal with the kick off going straight to touch, but quickly put things right.
As Wirral ran the ball from the restart scrum, Archie Barber was quickly in to steal the ball. Outside half Mark Carruthers made a break, and the move was taken on down the left by Billy Coxon, then by Archie Barber. When the ball was re-cycled, Ben Dixon gave a perfect long flat pass for Nick Carlton to run on to, to power through to the line for the opening try, with Tom Slater converting. 7v0.
The second score came less than five minutes late. Mark Caruthers made a break down the right and back row man Dane Blenkharn was on hand to take the pass and make ground, but rather than try to go for the line, with the Wirral defence closing in, he waited to time a perfect pass to wing Chris Wakeford for an easy run in. Tom Slater converted again. 14v0.
There was a good run down the left by Josh Chaplow, then he undid the good work with a poor pass, but it did not take long to redeem himself. When the ball went loose the Kendal players stopped, but rather than touchdown for the drop out, Wirral set up a counterattack, only for a poor clearance kick to go to Dan Wilson at fullback. He made a good run breaking attempted tackles, then Ben Dixon took the ball on, with Josh Chaplow finally bursting through for the score.19v0, with under fifteen minute played.
Josh Chaplow added a second try ten minutes with another powerful run. Tom Slater converted. 24v0
The next try came from a Wirral lineout close to their own line, they lost the ball, and Chris Evans, who was carrying on his from good late season form for the First XV, was first to react, gathering the ball to go over for a try 31v0
Wirral finally had reward for their efforts as the first half came to an end with a period pressure on the Kendal line finally ending in a try from short range. 31v5
The final try of the half has to be the try of the season. A Wirral player put an excellent long kick downfield from just within their twenty two to deep in touch in the Kendal half, to set up a good position. However the throw was taken quickly, and Dan Wilson set off on a trademark run, bouncing would be tacklers out of his way. The ball was then moved to Ben Dixon who made ground down the left wing, Jordan Johnson then took the move on, and when the ball was moved wide to the right Archie Barber made ground, before delivering a well timed pass to Chris Wakeford to score. 36v5 at halftime.
Ben Dixon and Dan Wilson did not start the second half, but their replacements were keen to be part of the action.
The first try of the half took two minutes. Having had much of the hard work done for him for his two opening tries, this time it was a solo effort from distance for right wing Chris Wakeford, Tom Slater again added the conversion 43v5.
Despite the scoreline, Wirral were still competing well and frequently were attempting to break the Kendal defence, but it was solid, with wing Joe Cook putting in some powerful tackles on much bigger players.
Ben Dixon returned to the field and scored with a long solo run started from within the Kendal half, Tom Slater added the conversion 50v5
He then got the next try from even longer range. Kendal had to withstand a long period of Wirral pressure on their line, with the referee playing a long period of advantage, which came to nothing. Wirral put the penalty to touch, but Ben Dixon won the lineout and set off on a length of the field run to score under the posts to give Tom Slater the simple conversion. 57v5
The next try was set up by a good break by Nick Carlton, who was always looking for space but was well marshalled by the Wirral defence. He then delivered the scoring pass to substitute Lewis Kincart. Tom Slater converted 64v5.
Josh Chaplow added the next try with an arcing run from a scrum in the twenty two, there were options to offload, but instead he powered through to the line. Tom Slater added the conversion 71v5
Chris Evans was rewarded for his afternoon’s work, with a good run for a try converted by Tom Slater
The final try of the afternoon came from a Ben Dixon break, finished off by Mark Carruthers, this time converted by Dan Wilson 85v5.
A performance so different to what has been seen too often for the First XV this season, from a team brimming in confidence, working for each other, with a number of the tries which could have been scored by someone else, but they made the decision to get the ball at the right moment to another in a better place, who had made the effort to offer themself as an option for a pass.
A number like Chris Evans, Nick Carlton and Dan Wood have already showed this season they can play at the higher level, whilst others like Dane Blenkharn, Josh Chaplow and Tom Slater showed they could, whilst if his studies allow, Ben Dixon looks an ideal replacement for the absent Chris Downham.
At the AGM at the start of the season, the commitment of some of the squad was questioned. There was no doubt this afternoon, and it is key that the new coaches make sure that more are rewarded with First XV experience, if only to keep those currently in a jersey on their toes.
A great way to end the season.
Hopefully I got most of the names right – apologies if I have credited one player’s good work to another.