Saturday 19th. March 2016
North 1 West
Carlisle 12 – 43 Wilmslow
'That's the way to play rugby', roared Rick Jones from the touchline when Hone Karaka ran in the fifth Wolves try of the afternoon in the second half at Carlisle. It wasn't so much the try that had delighted the Wilmslow coach as the manner in which it had been conceived and executed, with bold, fast and fluid running and passing with most of the team handling at some stage. In fact, it was the hallmark of all their seven tries in a game, which after a slow start, turned into a very good showing. It even seemed during their purple period in the third quarter, that they would score every time they had possession. There were debuts for Louis Staples in the second row and the Kiwi Tom Williams, now happily restored after breaking his hand in training, and a second appearance for the Cardiff student Louis Davis. All acquitted themselves well, emphasising the depth in talent currently at the club.
For Carlisle, it just added to the nightmare that this season has become for them. Their City Road ground, adjacent to Carlisle Football Club, was flooded out for the second time in ten years as the Eden broke its banks during the winter's storms, causing thousands of pounds of damage, which is estimated will take at least two seasons to put right. For the meantime, they have been able to play their home matches on the Creighton RUFC ground to the south of the city, well away from the flood zones. However well appointed Creighton's ground and clubhouse is, and it is, it's still not home for the Carlisle club and players.
On the field, they had been hovering just above the relegation zone for much of the season but following this reverse, there's now clear water between them and fellow strugglers Leigh and Blackburn as they drop into the relegation zone.
For much of this game, they had their equal share of possession in decent order from the set piece and an overall penalty count of fourteen to six in their favour is testament to the pressure they were exerting on the Wolves defence when they had the ball. In fact, they dominated territory in the early stages as the Wolves got the journey and three weeks without a game out of their system but only twice were they able to break across the gain line in the first half with ball in hand in face of the Wolves well mustered defence. Arguably, they had at least 75% of possession and field position during the first half but still found themselves trailing 14-7 at half time.
The Wolves are never more dangerous than when you kick the ball away for them to counter attack and when they got into their stride in the third quarter, they just started to run riot. The Carlisle heads went down and very soon the game was beyond them.
Nevertheless, Carlisle opened the scoring after twenty five minutes with a catch and drive from the lineout. The riposte was immediate when Ben Day took a kick ahead and countered with a move that ended with skipper Mike Black taking the final pass to score his only try of the season thus far under the posts. Both sides now had their moments, Wilmslow beginning to put some play together, mainly from Carlisle kicks or turnovers, and the home side breaking the Wilmslow line, when it lost its shape. Wolves prop, Robert Taylor was Yellow Carded for collapsing another attempted Carlisle catch and drive but then on the stroke of half time the Wolves turned the ball over in mid field and crisp passing put Ed Stobart clear.
The home side must have felt that there was no justice whilst it was just the tonic the visitors needed. The second period started with another kick out of defence by Carlisle, which went straight to Sam Cutts, who ran into contact and when the ball was recycled across the field, Karaka was held up but the other Taylor brother, Alex, was on hand to grab the ball and score from the pile up. Moments later, Stobart was held up on the left from a quickly taken short penalty and MacCallum seeing acres of unmanned space on the right put in a cross kick for Karaka to run on to unopposed. Karaka's second try, the best of the bunch, soon followed with a multi handling display. Five minutes later clean scrum ball enabled Karaka to show again what a pest he can be and when he was eventually hauled down, the Carlisle defence had been shredded, leaving acres of room for the debutant lock Louis Staples to gallop away with the recycled ball for his first ever Wolves try. The traffic was still in the direction of the Carlisle line and from an attacking lineout, the ball was moved to Stobart, who burst through some disheartened tacklers for the final score.
Wilmslow's progress was now disrupted by two Yellow Cards in quick succession, one to Adam Hewitt for his part in a feisty skirmish amongst the players and then Alex Donaldson was dismissed for transgressing at the breakdown. Both players wore broad grins as they departed the field, knowing that the match had already been won. The referee seemed determined that the home side should get some kind of consolation as the Wolves were constantly penalised in the inal moments and on the stroke of full time, Carlisle managed just that from a short penalty move.
The result now leaves Wilmslow all alone in the league in third place, ten and twelve points behind the two leaders and sixteen ahead of fourth placed Penrith. The Wolves will now play their rearranged home game against Widnes under floodlights on Thursday 24th. March, kick off 7.00pm.
The Vikings scored three tries to see off a challenge from Rossendale by 20-17 and despite blips away at Rossendale and Blackburn still remain top of the Standish Media league by just four points with their next game at home against their nearest challengers Preston Grasshoppers after Easter.
Photo: Wolves stalwart Ben Day in possession at Carlisle.
Match report by David Pike.