Carlisle Rugby Club edged closer to the North One West title with a 27-21 win over Manchester at Warwick Road.

It was a determined effort by Carlisle who had to make several changes with neither of the Connon brothers, Grant and Max, available and club captain Tom Graham pulling out at the last minute through illness.

Carlisle were out of the blocks first, as a scrum inside the Manchester 22 allowed scrum-half James Telford to slip down the side of the scrum, offloading to player-coach Matt Shields in close support, who barrelled over for the first try with three minutes on the clock.

The Warwick Road side quickly followed that up a few minutes later as a penalty allowed Carlisle the chance for a five-metre line-out. With Carlisle securing the ball and setting up a rolling maul, Telford spotted a gap down the blindside and was quickly over the whitewash for a try which he converted himself.

It wasn’t all going Carlisle’s way, though, and Manchester put them under a lot of pressure for the next 10-15 minutes when the hosts had to be sharp about their defence.

Despite being under the cosh, they managed to keep the Mancunians at bay, including holding up one attempted try in the left-hand corner.

Just as the Cumbrians were starting to build some territory and phases, a wayward pass was snaffled for an interception try for the visitors under the posts.

This gave the away side heart as they attempted to secure another score, but Carlisle’s defence held firm and they saw out the rest of the half to go in at half-time 14-7 ahead.

Carlisle regained the momentum they had in the first half after the restart, as they pushed deep into Manchester territory but the visitors were proving difficult to breakdown.

A penalty infringement in front of the posts gave Telford the opportunity to keep the scoreboard ticking over with just five minutes gone.

Carlisle continued to turn up the heat on the visitors and Manchester were punished for a penalty infringement on halfway by a searching kick to touch by fly-half Chris Auld. Using the line-out 10 metres out to set-up a driving maul, Carlisle pushed forward to the try-line but were initially repulsed.

Working the ball across the park towards the posts through a series of pick and goes, Telford then spotted a gap in the defence and breezed through to secure his second and Carlisle’s third try of the day.

With the score at 24-7, the game might have been over but Manchester were not for giving up.

In a repeat of the game at Grove Park earlier in the season, Manchester found their second wind and began to move the ball around at pace, causing Carlisle a number of problems.

They were duly rewarded after 65 minutes when a penalty infringement by Carlisle gave the visitors a five-metre line-out. Spinning the ball left, they eventually breached the home defence for their second converted try.

Having found the whitewash, the visitors duly crossed it again in quick time two minutes later, making it a three-point game, and the home support starting to look at their watches for full-time.

Carlisle though found another gear, and pushing up deep into the visitors 22, secured a penalty in front of the posts. Telford elected to kick and set hearts fluttering as he skied the ball wide.

Fortunately, he was given another chance four minutes later as Carlisle continued to push deep into Manchester’s territory and the visitors committed another penalty in front of the posts.

This time, there was no mistake and he made amends to give Carlisle a six-point cushion, which saw them out to the end of the game.