A five-point win, from a potentially tricky away fixture, was the perfect pick-me-up for Carlisle Rugby Club after a worrying setback to their nearest rivals.

Matt Shields’ men were clear 31-7 winners at Stockport to stay six points clear of Blackburn with four games to play in North One West.

The title and automatic promotion looked as though it could have been sealed by now but, with Blackburn also picking up five points from a 31-16 win over Manchester, nothing has been wrapped up yet.

It’s a blank weekend, coinciding with the last round of matches in the Six Nations, but next Saturday the Warwick Road side have, on paper, the trickiest game left of their final four – but at least it is at Warwick Road.

They host third-placed Birkenhead Park, 12 points behind Blackburn and 25-19 winners over Broughton Park last week. Third place, however, looks the best they can hope for. Blackburn will travel to Firwood Waterloo, one of the sides battling to avoid the final relegation place in North One West.

Carlisle won at Stockport in some style, to boost their confidence in the run in to the end of the season. It was only 14-7 at half-time but Carlile pulled away in the second half to in with a bit to spare.

Player-coach Shields and Dan Holmes scored the first-half tries with a second-half touchdown from Johnny Crichton and a late penalty try. Grant Connon provided four conversions and a penalty.

This was a much improved Carlisle side from last week and, despite going behind early doors, they didn’t panic and maintained their shape and their belief in their systems and processes.

These paid dividends as the game wore on, with the pack dominating proceedings for much of the game, and their driving maul was the equal of anything that Stockport had. This allowed the backs much more room to work with, and this must give the side a huge boost in confidence going forward.

Down at the other end of the table, Penrith did themselves the power of good with a hard-earned 20-20 draw at Warrington, another of the seven sides who could yet finish in the third relegation place.

On reflection it was three points won, not two lost, and was by far the best performance on the road this season. A similar effort in the final four league games of the season will see them safe.

Such is the closeness of the league that this draw has taken the Cumbrian side into the top-half of the table and nine points clear of the relegation zone with four games to go.

It was a close run thing with them only losing their lead to the last kick of the game - a penalty.

Penrith’s poor away form has been well-documented and they travelled determined to get it right, which they did.

The Cumbrians had turned round at half-time with a 10-7 lead through two tries from Brad Taylor and Dan Richardson. With Nathan Wooff away, Penrith had no full-time goal-kicker in the side and did not score a point with the boot all afternoon despite trying three different players.

Josh Dowson and George Graham scored the second-half tries for Penrith and they led 20-17 before Warrington came up with their last-gasp leveller.

When they resume on March 23, Penrith will be at home to Northwich, fourth in the table, and dangerous opponents after doing the double over leaders Carlisle.

The Cumbria League, also without fixtures tomorrow, is virtually wrapped up now with Keswick promoted and Aspatria almost over the line to contest the play-off place.

At least Aspatria had the pleasure of beating the champions a week after Keswick had won 10-5 at Davidson Park.

This time it was the Black Reds who took the honours, winning 23-7 at Bower Park and just need a couple of points from their last two games against Cockermouth and Wigton to guarantee second place.

A try from Grant Bethwaite and two Jack Clegg penalties had given Aspatria an 11-0 interval lead.

Lewis Bell pulled back a try for Keswick but Aspatria clinched the points with further tries from Bethwaite and Matthew Atkinson.

The other game in the A League was also the opposite of the one played the week before. This time, Cockermouth beat Wigton 31-7.

Unfortunately for the Greens, they suffered four injuries during the game which meant they had no replacements left long before the end. Their consolation try was scored by Nathan Bell.

In Cumbria League B, Whitehaven completed a quick double over Upper Eden, winning by four points again.

In the game at Kirkby Stephen, Whitehaven won 22-18.