Not for the first time this season, Carlisle Rugby Club player-coach Matt Shields is having to address on-field discipline from his players.

The high penalty count and the two yellow cards in Saturday’s disappointing 21-15 home defeat to Wirral were another sharp reminder of their problems.

It’s also tough when you have to contend with a string of injuries, and there were more to worry about after the Wirral game.

The visitors had arrived at Warwick Road next to bottom of North Premier but not having lost a game by more than seven points.

They left it fourth-bottom and level on points with both Carlisle and Alnwick.

That would start alarm bells ringing for Carlisle as they visit unbeaten leaders Billingham tomorrow. Defeat for Carlisle and success for teams below them could end up with the city side being in the relegation zone.

It was a pretty drab first half against Wirral, with Carlisle scoring the only points through a Grant Connon penalty.

Things livened up after the resumption and Carlisle played better, but they suffered when Tom Percival was sin-binned for a high tackle as Wirral scored two tries.

Debutant Welsh winger Ed Harper and James Telford scored the Carlisle tries and they were hammering away at the Wirral line when time ran out.

It will be a tough test at Billingham tomorrow against a side who have won all nine games, including a hard-earned 19-12 win at Harrogate.

It was a disappointing afternoon, too, for Penrith who were beaten 28-18 at Burnage in North One West. That meant Penrith took nothing from the game but remain in third place in the league.

They will need a win in their home game tomorrow against Northwich, as they have five clubs behind them within four points.

Head coach David Preston had to shuffle his resources at Burnage, being short of two of his strike runners. The ever-willing flanker Tom Lindsay slotted in at centre and young scrum-half Hugh Burne started his first senior game on the wing.

These changes did not blunt the Penrith effort and they were in with a decent shout of winning the game right up until the final 10 minutes, but they fell just short.

It had been 6-6 at half-time, two Fraser Nicholson penalties being cancelled out by the hosts and after Burnage had gone in front with an unconverted try, Nicholson crossed and added the conversion for a two-point lead.

Burnage came back to lead 18-13 but, as the game went into the final quarter, it was being played in the home 22 and the larger Burnage pack looked to be tiring.

They had chances but these went begging through lack of patience and, when a rare clean line break by the home centre set-up the third try, it was game over, although Nicholson did add his second try right at the death.

Keswick earned their first point from four tries in a 44-24 defeat at Altrincham Kersal which sets them up for a big game tomorrow.

They host Warrington, the other side with only a point on the board so, clearly, both sides will be looking for their first win of the season.

Not for the first time, Keswick showed spirit and commitment in the final quarter of the game, scoring most of their points.

Ryan Weir actually went in for his second try in the last minute to earn the bonus point. Lewis Bell and George Holme scored the other Keswick tries.

Warrington only lost 17-7 at home to Firwood Waterloo last week and, defensively, have shipped much fewer points than Keswick.

But there has been a definite improvement over their nine games for Keswick and they will see this as a chance of that elusive first win.

In North Two West, Aspatria continue to struggle at the foot of the table and, against Southport on Saturday, they were beaten 25-24, falling to a last-gasp try and conversion.

The Black Reds led Southport by 11 points, going into the final quarter but watched as a handy advantage was whittled away by dogged opponents. The killer score came with only a minute to play.

A Southport try in the corner on its own was not enough but a magnificent touchline conversion proved to be the nail in the Aspatria coffin. The loss has left Aspatria at the bottom of the league, their consolation being that, with a game in hand, they remain in touch with the teams hovering outside the drop zone but wins will have to start coming soon.

In the Cumbria League, Wigton stayed joint-top with Cockermouth after a 39-17 win at Silloth but they have a tougher game in prospect tomorrow when they entertain Whitehaven.