With just 15 men available on the day, Whitehaven put up a creditable performance at the Recreation Ground against a strong Swinton Lions squad.

In heavy going, the limited options from the bench proved crucial as two late tries won the game for the Championship side.

Beforehand, there had been a minute’s silence in memory of former Whitehaven director Kenny Shepherd who died recently.

Early pressure from Haven forced a drop-out when a kick through was fumbled over the line.

The hosts kept up the offensive and they deservedly took the lead on seven minutes when James Tilley slipped over from close-range and Brad Billsborough put over the conversion.

Although slow into their stride, Swinton gradually built position in reply and, on 14 minutes, they got a second successive set in the Whitehaven 20-metre area. The ball was worked smartly across field where Matt Sarsfield burst through to crash over the line. Chris Hankinson converted.

There could have been more trouble when Jordan Burns was tested by a huge up-and-under from Dan Ansell but, although he misjudged it, knocking the ball backwards, he recovered well under the shadow of his own posts.

The Recreation Ground pitch was churning up by the minute but, for the most part, both sides handled the greasy ball.

It was hard going, a slog in the mud which was going to prove a test over the 80 minutes, especially for Whitehaven with just two substitutes and, as the half wore on, the handling errors increased.

Tackling was keen from both sides and there were some feisty exchanges.

Callum Phillips was on the end of a high-tackle and the penalty to touch enabled Haven to build a serious attack again. A succession of penalties meant they stayed there for several minutes but the home side were unable to break down the Lions defence.

One of the Swinton players, Andy Bracek, was shown a yellow card, however, for persistent offending at play-the-balls after a team warning.

There was a scramble in the corner when Swinton replied with a swift counter-attack but referee Gareth Hewer gave offside against the Lions when they were claiming a try.

The half finished all square, a fair reflection on the opening 40 minutes.

Player-coach Carl Forster, as usual, made good yards when in possession and he got Haven moving again at the start of the second half, forcing Swinton on to the back foot.

A smart handling move on last tackle saw Lewis Reece fling himself forward but he was just short of the line.

Then, at the other end, a kick over the Whitehaven defence by Ansell was gathered by Elliott Caine who also dived for the line but came up short.

Play had moved on when referee Hewer raced across to the touchline where a brawl had started and soon most of the two sides were involved. It resulted in yellow cards for Haven’s Phil Lister and Swinton’s Michael Butt.

For a time, it was 12 against 11 but Whitehaven could not make their advantage count.

When they all had returned, it was Lister who raced over in the corner seconds later to round off a smart move across the field. The conversion was short from the touchline.

Swinton came back strongly and, on 62 minutes, went in front. A second set of six under the posts ended with a kick through by Ansell ricocheting kindly for Bracek to get the touchdown. Hankinson converted.

Swinton scored again on 72 minutes when quick ball along the line ended with Rhodri Lloyd driving over unopposed for the try which Hankinson improved.

Whitehaven had made good yards in the cloying mud but they were unable to earn a consolation score.

Whitehaven: Burns, Green, Taylor, Thompson, Lister, Billsborough, Phillips, Shackley, Tilley, Forster, Gillam, Reece, Brown. Subs: Abram, Coward

Tries: Tilley, Lister

Goal: Billsborough

Swinton: Fell, Butt, Hankinson, Tyson, Caine, Ansell, J. Hansen, Bracek, Waterworth, Shelford,Lloyd, Sarsfield, H. Hansen. Subs: Djalout, Hall, Taylor, Webb

Tries: Sarsfield, Bracek, Lloyd.

Goals: Hankinson 3

Penalties: 11-14

Referee: Gareth Hewer

Crowd: 451