Saturday 8th. December 2018
Northern Premier league
Kendal 25 – 15 Wilmslow
The Wolves were neither outplayed nor did they play at all badly on their first ever visit to Kendal's opulent new 'Mintbridge' home. Kendal's rugby team, however, is also struggling this season and this was a game that Wilmslow felt they could be in with a chance. Lady luck though has deserted them and despite a resilient performance they still ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
You sensed that it was going to end with their twelfth loss of the season when with fifteen minutes still to play, Bob MacCallum had a perfectly good penalty kick ruled out inexplicably when the touch judges failed to raise their flags to indicate the kick had been good. Wilmslow's touch judge said afterwards he couldn't see from behind the right hand post whether the ball passed the left hand upright on the right side and that he took his cue from the Kendal man. Everybody else around the ground, apart from the referee apparently, could see that it had been good. It was a shocking decision, robbing the Wolves of three points that would have put them within a single score of the home side at a critical stage of the match. Add to that a contentious Kendal penalty goal after twenty minutes when Wilmslow got no advantage from a clear knock on, immediately followed by a short penalty leading to their second try when a clear knock on by them moments earlier hadn't been noticed and you had to conclude that this just wasn't meant to be their day.
Despite the murky rain sodden conditions, the Wolves had started brightly. MacCallum prodded an early penalty into the danger zone and even though the lineout drive was deemed held up, the Wolves won a clean scrum for MacCallum and Ben Day to sweetly combine for the latter to scythe through under the posts for the opening score after just eight minutes. Day went on to have an imperious afternoon under relentless high kicks from Kendal No. 10 Nathan McCloy. Nothing within reach escaped him as time and again he fielded the ball and attempted to set up the counter attack. It's just a shame that his kicking from hand is not always as reliable as the rest of his game.
Five minutes later, Kendal had an opportunity when they opted for a scrum and although Wilmslow stopped the drive and turned over the ball, they quickly lost it again, enabling Kendal to counter attack on the right for their winger Nick Carlton to get the first of his three tries.
In foul conditions, both sides were making their fair share of handling errors, none more so than the Kendal forward, who knocked on at the end of the first quarter. The referee appeared to play advantage for Wilmslow but when that wasn't forthcoming you expected him to award Wilmslow the scrum for the original offence. Instead, play continued. Wilmslow then got penalised at the breakdown and McCloy took the points on offer. Worse was to follow. Another Kendal knock on went unnoticed immediately from the restart and a quick short penalty was then taken before the referee had even blown his whistle. Unsurprisingly Kendal went 15 – 7 ahead, when prop Jack Lashley touched down. To their credit, the Wolves hit back when Elliott Rowe was up to take the restart and was driven on by his pack almost to the Kendal line, where the drive was held up. Kendal cleared from the scrum but the Wolves were finishing the half strongly and earned a penalty for a high tackle which MacCallum duly slotted for 15 – 10. The Wolves were still pressing when half time came.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half belonged to Kendal. A McCloy kick found the open spaces and as the ball squirted about in the Wilmslow half avoiding the grasp of the defenders, it was hacked on more than once. In the gloom it was impossible to see exactly what transpired but the referee ruled a try for the home side by winger Carlton in the right hand corner. They then won a lineout and as their second row galloped towards the line for what looked like a certain score, he then took the worst of all options to kick the ball dead. Brain dead muttered a discontented Kendal spectator!
There was then a lengthy delay whilst Wilmslow centre Stuewart Costello, making his first appearance, was treated for what looked a serious injury but mercifully the stretcher bearers were not required as a groggy looking Costello staggered to his feet to be escorted from the field with probably a bout of concussion.
The Wolves regrouped and got back into the game. MacCallum's was it or wasn't it penalty kick was the next talking point and then from another penalty kick to the corner the Wolves drove and Kyle Mellor got the touchdown in the corner with ten minutes still to go. They couldn't then force their way back into Kendal territory from the restart and when they kicked for territory, they never got their hands on the ball again. As the clock ran down, McCloy put Kendal firmly in the corner from a penalty, once again they couldn't drive over but in the final play from a scrum Carlton scored his third and Kendal's bonus point try.
And so it ended with another defeat, this time in a rain lashed corner of the Lakes. The Wolves had deserved better than to come away with nothing but when you're at the bottom of the league and you luck is out, that's frequently the way that it can go.
Photo: No way through for Ben Day as he tries to break the Kendal line in the second half.
Match report by David Pike.