It's nervous times for Carlisle Rugby Club as their progress towards promotion faltered on Saturday.

After winning 24-15 at Warwick Road, the momentum has switched to Blackburn, currently the form team in North One West. They have only lost once in their last 11 games and have closed the gap on Carlisle to just six points.

It was almost three times as much not too long ago so, entering the final straight, Matt Shields’ long-time table-toppers can’t slip up much more.

Blackburn are the form side and four of their last five games are against teams in the current bottom seven. They finish off at home to Douglas who have slipped to fifth recently.

Carlisle finish off with three games against sides in the bottom half and it’s probably the next two games which will hold the key to them retaining their lead at the top.

They visit Stockport tomorrow who are seventh in the table and who had a good 34-24 home win last week against Birkenhead Park.

It’s Birkenhead Park, currently fourth, who visit Warwick Road on March 23.

Reflecting on the Blackburn defeat, Carlisle will rue that for all the possession they had, particularly in the second part of the first half, they couldn’t convert that into more points.

It didn’t help, either, that they handed momentum back to Blackburn from two restarts which were costly errors that the visitors took full advantage of.

A try at the end of the first-half by former Penrith winger Ben Littleton allowed Carlisle to turn round at 5-5. But with the amount of pressure, and the fact that Blackburn had a forward sin-binned, Carlisle probably lost the game in that period.

The third quarter of the game proved costly as Blackburn pulled into a 17-8 lead with two tries and a conversion, against a Grant Connon penalty.

There was some hope, however, on 63 minutes when Dan Holmes scored a try, converted by Connon to cut the gap to two points, but Carlisle conceded cheap possession and Blackburn hit back immediately with a converted try – the last score of the game.

Blackburn host Manchester tomorrow, looking to make more inroads on the Carlisle lead at the top.

While Carlisle fell short in their match of the day, Penrith achieved what they needed in their home game against struggling Anselmians. 

They simply had to collect maximum points against a side already doomed to relegation.

Faced with their easiest fixture (on paper), they duly achieved their target with a 42-3 home win.

They scored 21 points in each half with the tries coming from Adam Howe, Richardson (2), Jon Fell, Ed Swale and a penalty try.

Tomorrow, they travel to Warrington for another vital game.

Seven teams are fighting to avoid the final relegation place and Penrith have a three-point lead over Warrington and a seven-point advantage over Burnage, who currently occupy the dreaded third-bottom position.

Coincidentally, Burnage host Firwood Waterloo tomorrow, the team one place and two points above them.

Keswick coach Richard Metcalf has been reflecting on another successful season.

A hard-fought 10-5 home win over Aspatria on Saturday clinched the Cumbria League title and their second promotion in four years.

There are still some decisions to be made about league formats next season, but set in stone is that Keswick will be playing in North One West.

“That will be tough but we will be looking forward to it and trying to maintain the progress the club has made," he said.

“It isn’t just about the 1st XV at Keswick, as all the other teams at the club have bought into the desire to progress.

“We made the decision to play the 2nd XV in a Lancashire-based competition and that has been good for them, while the Under-17s have won their league.

“We have two girls teams and various junior age-groups, so we are doing very well on participating numbers.

“I have been very fortunate as coach to have an excellent chairman and a good number of top-class volunteers. I think we have done well this season because we took the new-look Cumbria League seriously. Perhaps one or two others didn’t feel like that.

“Our view was that it was a good way to get to level six so why not take it? I have to say, too, that we have some talented players in the county, although we probably don’t have the strength in depth of others."