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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Penrith prove their point against Sandal

Penrith went into their home National Three North clash against Sandal with a massive point to prove.

James Hogg photo
Man of the match James Hogg

The visitors had put 81 points on them at the beginning of the season on a baking hot September afternoon in Wakefield when Penrith had been appalling.

Many aspects of their play have improved dramatically since then, mainly their first up tackling but it was their tenacity which eventually earned them a 20-20 draw.

Actually the Cumbrians gave away the softest of tries after only five minutes. They won a scrum on their own line and rather than clear their lines allowed the ball to squirt over the line for the simplest of touchdowns, which was converted.

The early score appeared to alter the visitors’ mindset and they turned their thoughts from securing a win, to believing it was going to be a 50, 60 or 70-pointer. They visibly relaxed.

But this wasn’t the Penrith side they had faced in the first half of the season as they found out when they were brought to a juddering halt on numerous occasions on the gain line.

When Sandal were penalised for being offside on their own 22, Steve Wood pulled back three points with a well-hit penalty.

He missed another attempt from wide out before the home side took the lead with a well-taken try.

Ben Littleton chased back a clearance kick and gathered it on half way and it looked for all the world as if he was going to get swallowed up by the chasers. But he managed to hold the ball up and find his support.

Man of the match James Hogg stormed forward and, when the ball came wide, Sandal had forwards in the backline so the home backs picked them off.

First Neil Warnock put Mike Hawley into space then he put Jon Fell away on the outside. Fell drew the last defender and put the ball back inside to Hawley who romped in. Wood converted.

Penrith then scored a textbook try after Mike Raine took the ball off the top of the lineout. Gary Hodgson and Mike Stephens ran it up in midfield before the backs were set away and Warnock again put Hawley into space where he showed the defence a clean pair of heels for an unconverted try.

Despite conceding a late penalty the home side had an encouraging 15-10 lead at the break.

Serious words were obviously spoken to the visitors at half-time and their second half performance was much more workmanlike.

From the off they pinned the Cumbrians in their own 22 and kept it simple.

They got a penalty chance which went just wide but they were eventually rewarded with a try in the corner which was well converted off the touchline.

There then followed 20 minutes of stalemate when play was confined to the middle third of the pitch and both sides were cancelling each other out.

Neither team could create any clear chances and then with only a couple of minutes on the clock, with play on the Penrith 22, the visitors manufactured a drop goal opportunity that was nicely taken for a five-point advantage.

Play went into stoppage time and it looked as if the home side would have to be satisfied with a losing bonus point and a decent performance as a clearance kick missed touch.

It didn’t look too promising as Ed Swale scrambled to collect the ball but he found Fell who was in full flight. He moved across the field and made ground before playing a beautiful flighted pass out of the tackle.

Littleton took the ball at pace and lit the afterburners before making for the corner. The cover got to him five yards out but couldn’t stop him in full flight, and he went in to level the scores.

Wood had a difficult conversion off the touchline to win the game, it had the distance but not quite the direction.

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