Barrow Raiders 26 Workington Town 10

The very nature of rugby league means teams should not normally be able to win games despite having to defend for long periods and their opponents having the better of the possession, yet Barrow Raiders keep defying the sport’s conventional wisdom.

Much has already been written and said about the impressive nature of the Raiders’ defence this season, and it once again came to the fore in Saturday’s 26-10 Cumbrian derby victory over Workington Town at Craven Park in Kingstone Press League One.

But what was particularly notable was that they were able to hold firm in the face of repeated onslaughts by their friends from up the coast, despite at one point being down to 12 men due to Lewis Charnock’s sin-binning and being on the wrong side of the penalty count in a game where referee Brandon Robinson seemed to have a new whistle that he wanted to make sure worked properly.

What stood out as well was, whereas opponents had simply struggled to break down Barrow’s excellent defensive structure in previous games, on this occasion it was as much about the Raiders’ scrambling defence as Town aimed to move the ball quickly in favourable conditions.

That underlines not only the dividends being paid by head coach Paul Crarey bringing down amateur teams from the area to run up against the Barrow defence in training, but also the work done by Paul Taylor and the strength and conditioning team in getting the squad supremely fit.

Of course, given their spells of pressure, it was inevitable Workington would get over sooner or later, and two tries in the space of five second-half minutes from Jamie Doran and Ed Chamberlain to reduce the deficit to eight points came after gaps had been opened up.

But any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out 15 minutes from time as Barrow showed another part of their game which has perhaps not been as heralded – their counter-attacking.

Jamie Dallimore’s kicking game had caused problems for the Town defence all night and another high kick which was left to bounce was chased down by utility packman James Duerden, who got the game-clinching score to cap an impressive display at loose forward in the absence of the ill Martin Aspinwall.

Indeed, stand-off Dallimore’s kicking from open play proved vital in helping turn the tide at times, while he also came up with some important tackles.

The contribution of the interchange bench should not be understated either, particularly the work of props Andrew Dawson and Tom Walker in relief of Ollie Wilkes and Joe Bullock, whether it was with their strong running or smothering defence.

That is not to say that Barrow spent the entire game pinned in their own half save for breaking out for their four tries, but what they did prove is that they can still find ways to win games even when not at their fluent best – surely the sign of a good side.

It was all Workington in the opening minutes though after two knock-ons saw Barrow cough up possession, yet two penalties allowed them to advance swiftly up field and a strong carry from Duerden led to Charnock darting through for the opening try on six minutes, along with adding the conversion.

But when the Raiders were harshly placed on a team warning with the penalty count equal, Charnock became the victim of their collective indiscipline on 22 minutes and was shown a yellow card.

Barrow saw out that 10-minute period though and when the former St Helens half-back returned, he immediately kicked a 40/20 which led to Ryan Fieldhouse setting up Andy Litherland for a second converted try which put the hosts 12 points clear at the break.

Another penalty nine minutes after the break set up an attack which saw Dan Abram scoot over from dummy-half for Barrow’s third, although Workington rallied and hit back through the tries from Doran and Chamberlain – one of which was converted by Carl Forber.

However, Duerden punished Town’s failure to deal with Dallimore’s testing kick on 65 minutes and when Charnock kicked a penalty two minutes from time, it put the seal on a win which saw the Raiders take the local bragging rights and, more importantly, make it eight wins from eight this season.

Raiders: Fieldhouse, Toal, Hulme, Litherland, Cresswell, Dallimore, Charnock, Bullock, Mossop, Wilkes, Stack, Crellin, Duerden

Interchange: Abram, Dawson, Walker, Toal

Tries: Charnock, Litherland, Abram, Duerden

Goals: Charnock (5)

Sin-bin: Charnock

Town: Fell, Hambley, Chamberlain, Mossop, Rooke, Forber, Doran, Scholey, Dowsett, Coward, B Phillips, Davies, Singleton. Interchange: Curwen, Szostak, Fitzsimmons, C Philips

Tries: Doran, Chamberlain

Goals: Forber

Referee: Brandon Robinson

Attendance: 1,284.