Wigton edge past Aspatria at the end of a pulsating Cumbrian derby

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Flat out: Matthew Atkinson going in for an Aspatria try against his former club Wigton
Flat out: Matthew Atkinson going in for an Aspatria try against his former club Wigton

In a pulsating local derby to start the North Lancs Cumbria season, Wigton held back a late Aspatria challenge to win 27-26.

Aspatria enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the game.

And, with control being exerted at both scrum and line-out, the outcome of the game would have been entirely different but for Wigton’s magnificent defensive effort and an ability to make the most of the few scoring opportunities that came their way.

Throughout the game, especially in the second half, Wigton’s inability to clear their lines with any consistency was the source of much pressure.

Yet Wigton fashioned some good attacks and, in the first half, took advantage of some loose Aspatria play as they shot into a 24-7 interval lead.

An ambitious Aspatria throw to the back of a line-out was seized upon by Wigton flanker Colin Sessford, who went on to play one of his best games for the club.

He carried the ball forward and produced a nicely timed pass to Mark Deans who made yardage into the defence. He was supported by fly-half Ryan Clark who beat the first tackle and then linked with No.8 Jay Henderson in support. He galloped 25 yards to hold off the covering defence and score an unconverted try.

From the restart, Aspatria dominated possession and from a scrum, they moved the ball straight to the backs who flashed the ball wide to outside centre Guy Reed and he powered over the line. Craig Foster’s conversion was good.

Wigton hit back almost immediately, producing their best play of the match from their next possession.

Good hands moved the ball into the wider channels and it went from the right touchline to the left before being swept back to the right again, where winger Aron Henderson was able to cross for Wigton’s second try

Two more tries for Wigton before half-time and earned a bonus point. Both left Aspatria’s coaching team dancing up and down in frustration.

The first of these was on 22 minutes with Aspatria mounting another attack around the halfway mark. The passing along the backline was not precise and Wigton centre, Richard Moffat, read the situation and intercepted to race 50 metres unopposed to the posts.

Aspatria were looking the more likely to score next when they repeated the previous error and allowed Arron Henderson to intercept and sprint to the line providing the home side with a 24-7 half-time advantage.

Aspatria realised that there was still everything to play for and were lifted by an early score in the second period. Grant Bethwaite was hauled down five metres out but the ball was quickly recycled into midfield where captain Matthew Atkinson was waiting to hop, skip and jump his way over the line. Foster nailed the conversion.

Then came what was to prove to be the crucial score. When Aspatria conceded a penalty 35 yards out, Clark confidently slotted the goal.

Gary Hodgson’s running of the back of set-pieces and breakdowns was causing havoc and it was he who made the breakthrough for Aspatria, stretching over the line for a third try which Foster converted.

Then, in a storming finale Aspatria kicked a penalty into Wigton’s 22 where they had a line-out and set up a driving maul from where James Ravell broke to score their fourth try wide on the left.

The fate of the game hung with Foster’s conversion, his most difficult of the match. It was a good attempt but not quite good enough and Wigton had hung on.

Keswick’s first league game of the season turned out to be an unexpected eight-try thriller as they drew 24-24 with last season’s runners-up De La Salle.

Following an exchange of penalties, with both sides missing kicks at goal, Keswick overpowered a De La Salle scrum to gain possession and create good running play to allow Ryan Weir to score an unconverted try in the corner.

More good possession and running play showed Keswick’s quality and captain Aaron Thompson crossed the line for a try which was converted by Andy Muir for a 12-0 half-time lead.

Strong Keswick defence denied the visitors who made a strong start to the second-half and it was the hosts who scored again. A hard drive by the forwards from a line-out allowed Andy Muir to cross for a try which he converted himself.

De La Salle picked up the pace and scored a converted try and pretty soon were in again to cut the deficit to 19-12.

But Keswick responded by putting the ball into touch five metres from the De La Salle line.

A great line-out steal saw Keswick gain possession for captain Thompson to score an unconverted try in the corner.

Late in the game, De La Salle earned the draw with two tries, one of which was converted.

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