Carlisle Rugby Club went down 38-7 at Billingham in their North Premier clash on Teeside.

However, a loss to the leaders should be viewed in the context that Carlisle were within 12 points of Billingham with 15 minutes to go, and only a loss of concentration and a couple of soft tries as they chased the game widened that margin considerably.

After a decent start, Carlisle had to be on their mettle to keep Billingham out as they started to turn the screw.

But the Cumbrians held firm and, when they did manage to keep the ball, they looked dangerous enough to keep the home defence honest.

Carlisle’s ill-discipline though began to tell as the penalty count began to creep up and, after a couple of desperate defensive efforts on their try-line, they had James Brocket sin-binned.

Billingham then utilised the extra man and eventually, after a few phases, a gap appeared in the Carlisle wall to allow their flanker to dive through for their first try.

That would be the only score of the half, yet Carlisle’s indiscipline was again to the fore, as Grant Connon was shown a yellow for a high tackle, just two minutes from the end of the half.

Just five minutes after the restart, Ed Harper received a yellow for accidentally taking a man out in the air.

Down to 13 men, Carlisle had to defend vigorously and they had kept out Billingham until shortly after Connon returned to the field when they managed their second try.

Carlisle shipped no further points while the hosts had a numerical advantage and, restored to 15, Carlisle managed to steady the defence.

However Billingham were relentless and, after a scrum inside the Carlisle 22, their second-row bounced off a few tackles and went over for the third try.

The Cumbrians responded from the restart and, with the forwards carrying well for a couple of phases, the ball was spread left for Grant Connon to jink his way past two defenders to go under the posts for a converted try.

Any glimmer of hope Carlisle might get themselves back into the game was quickly snuffed out, though, as Billingham went up the park from the restart for their bonus-point try with 10 minutes left.

Both sides had opportunities to score more points on Saturday but Billingham took theirs as a quick-tap penalty exposed the Carlisle defence and they conceded a fairly soft fifth try.

Carlisle were attacking deep into injury time inside the home 22 when Billingham managed to turn the ball over and, after hoofing it downfield, it was their player that won the foot race to score.