Birkenhead Park 17-15 Kirkby Lonsdale

Brendan Cleary.
Brendan Cleary.
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Kirkby Lonsdale came within a whisker of upsetting second in the table Birkenhead Park in North One West on Saturday.

The visitors outscored their lofty hosts two tries to one to pick up a bonus point they would have been content with at the start of play but were left to rue missed penalties in the two-point defeat.

It leaves the Underley Park side 10th in the table as one of three clubs on 38 points.

Without captain Matt Hughes Kirkby’s early pressure paid off with Tom Pickthall converting a 10th-minute penalty having missed an earlier chance but it was cancelled out by Park stand off Dave Hall.

Another kickable penalty was missed on the half hour before Kirkby scored their opening try five minutes later.

Sam Latu made a powerful run down the wing into the home 22 allowing scrum half Ben Walker to feed Dave Barton who crossed just to the right of the posts to score, with Pickthall converting for a 10-3 lead. The visitors couldn’t hold out until the break however, Park scoring in the right corner having been held up five metres out.

The conversion was wide meaning Kirkby held a two-point lead at the break, but cracks began to appear after the break as the visitors’ lack of forward resources became a factor.

As the half progressed Kirkby defended valiantly and held up a Park drive to deny a try but they yielded penalties that took the score to 14-10.

The game was still in the balance with 10 to play however and Kirkby were next to strike.

Walker made a jinking run deep into Park territory which allowed full back Martyn Knapton to go close in the corner. He was held up but Kirkby moved the ball left where Latu at full throttle ran onto a pass and through a number of despairing defenders to score an unconverted try in the left corner for a 15-14 lead.

The visitors couldn’t hold out for the final five minutes however, a Park drive resulting in Kirkby conceding a penalty in front of the posts which was converted for victory.

A Kirkby Lonsdale youngster has been selected to play for the North of England under 18 squad.

Brendan Cleary, who starting playing rugby at Underley Park aged just four, will play at fly half for the regional side after a successful trial.

The 17-year-old senior colt will play in a warm-up game against Leeds Carnegie on January 26 prior to games based at Loughborough on February 21 and 23 against the South and Midlands divisions respectively.

Through his mum’s nationality he has represented the USA at under 16 level playing against England, Wales and Belgium.