Saturday 9th. April 2016
North 1 West
Kendal 32 – 8 Wilmslow
If Wilmslow had set off with any hopes of causing an upset against the league leaders, then they were swiftly snuffed out by a Kendal side which dominated from start to finish. There was little wrong with the spirit of the Wilmslow players, who never raised the white flag and defended manfully to the bitter end but the truth is that on the day they were outclassed by a physically bigger and more robust side, who will now probably go on to win the league.
You need to be both at your strongest and at the top of your game to have any chance of getting anything at places like Kendal's Mint Bridge fortress but the Wolves had had to travel without at least three of their most talismanic players and the wear and tear of the season had accounted for others. Coach Rick Jones commented that for the youngsters drafted in during recent weeks, this would have been the toughest and hardest challenge they had ever faced up to on the rugby pitch. Nevertheless, it says a lot for them that they only conceded a fourth try very late in the game and in the final quarter were still able to manufacture a decent try. For the young eighteen year old Kiwis, Hone Karaka and Tom Williams, the two Loui's Davis and Staples recently introduced from second team rugby and Callum Westaway making his first start at No. 10 for the Wolves in a league match, the occasion would be a learning experience. All of them stepped up to the plate but it was still a big ask to expect them to subdue this Kendal outfit. Jones also singled out prop Jordan Ayrey for an outstanding effort throughout the game, his carrying of the ball, his tackling and his commitment to the cause.
Kendal are strongest in their pack, big, physical, full of experience and know how at scrum and lineout time. For fully half an hour they carried all before them regardless of put in and throw. They also knew how to exploit the scrummaging laws and you can't blame them for taking full advantage if the referee allows them to do so. They also knew all about the threat emanating from Wilmslow's backs. Jones remarked afterwards on the 'work rate' of the Kendal side in denying Wilmslow's runners any time and space with the scraps of possession they did get. That doesn't just happen by chance and the Wolves have struggled at times this season when opponents have worked out how to stop them. One couldn't help thinking though that for all the possession and field position Kendal had, they really should have managed more than four tries, only one scored from open field back play, the others from a push over and rucks close to the Wolves line.
The Wolves had survived several early scares thanks to their obdurate defence before they inevitably conceded a shot at goal after eleven minutes to Glenn Weightman, one of two former Carlisle players now in the Kendal set up. Nathan Woof then launched a well thought out cross kick for his open side flanker Matty Houghton to run onto but the Wolves defence managed to get across before he could touch down. Weightman then missed a second penalty shot on eighteen minutes but landed a third effort three minutes later, whilst Wilmslow's Karaka was having stitches put into a head wound. On the half hour, Kendal's back three fielded and ran back a long kick out, which eventually finished with a pile up on the Wilmslow line from which one of the Kendal front five, Liam Hayton, emerged with the ball to score. You couldn't say that 13-0 to the home side at this stage was against the run of play.
Kendal's No. 8 Chris Downham now obligingly dropped a pass at the restart and the Wolves had their first sortie in Kendal territory. Their lineout was now working better but trying to finish off a series of clean catches by driving Ms. Hayton, Murphy et al over their own line proved beyond them and when a fourth penalty was awarded scrum half Ollie Wilkinson took the points on offer.
Kendal's second try on the cusp of half time had its origins in a partial charge down of a kick by Ed Stobart trying to manufacture something out of not very much, Alex Taylor knocked on the rebound and the Kendal eight then made mincemeat of the Wilmslow scrum, scrum half James Gough bursting through the centre before neat passing put Zane Butler on their right wing in at the corner.
The omens for the Wolves were not good as the second half got underway. With what possession they did get, they were unable to make much impression and it rarely lasted for more than one phase as they were forced into taking unlikely options. There was the odd half break from Ben Day but that was about it. Kendal on the other hand were making heavy weather of finishing anything off. They had ample opportunity but it wasn't until well into the final quarter that Downham and his mates heaved themselves over the Wilmslow line from a five yard set piece.
Briefly, the Wolves began to throw the ball about a bit. Possibly, now that Kendal were 25-3 to the good, their defence wasn't in the Wolves face just as much and they managed to put Loui Staples in at the corner for what turned out to be a consolation. A half chance then presented itself to Tom Williams, who showed that even New Zealand rugby players are not infallible by taking his eyes off the ball and spilling the pass. Kendal's final score soon followed. They had been camped for some minutes on the Wilmslow line when eventually they breached the dyke for hooker Duncan Green get a score, which in every respect was a carbon copy of their first.
There can be no complaints. It wasn't very pretty, this Kendal side don't do pretty but they do the application of power very well. The Wolves had no answer and were comprehensively outplayed.
Photo: A determined run by Sam Cutts.
Match report by David Pike.