A valuable 28-22 victory at Sefton was enough to lift Aspatria Rugby Club out of the relegation zone in North Two West.

The game started with both clubs holding up the rest of the league, and no-one needed to tell either team how important the end result of Saturday's match would be. It was obvious.

Sefton certainly had no doubts about the importance of the game as they immediately ripped into Aspatria.

With just two minutes played, they had a penalty awarded in front of the sticks for offside but the kick was missed, providing Aspatria with an early let off.

Aspatria used the opportunity to move downfield where Sefton returned the penalty favour with a high tackle, allowing Jack Clegg to knock over from 40 metres.

The home side responded by taking control of possession just inside the Aspatria half and inched upfield with more than one phase of play, before the end result was a converted try.

Aspatria’s set-piece scrum and line-out did not operate at peak performance throughout the contest but, with ball in hand, it was a different story, particularly in the first half.

Following the Sefton try, fluent backline movement sent centre Joe Beaty and winger Ross Barton into try-scoring positions, but both were stopped by last-ditch tackles.

Gradually, Aspatria’s backline, well-orchestrated by Clegg at stand-off, began to gain some ascendency in the game and the bulk of the action was now being confined to the Sefton half.

When the Aspatria try came on 24 minutes, it was a scrambled affair. Some loose kicking by both sides freed the ball up to be hacked towards and over the Sefton try-line. Sefton’s chasing defender appeared favourite to reach the ball first, but he missed with a despairing lunge.

This allowed right winger Ben Robinson to race up and dot the ball down in the corner for an 8-7 advantage.

On 32 minutes, when Sefton engineered a rare visit to the Aspatria 22, a clever cross-field kick exposed the defence and a try beckoned, only for Sefton to fail due to a knock-on as the line appeared.

Sefton were not done though, and from an attacking scrum, they made no mistake to go back in front.

Just as it seemed all was well in the home camp it went badly wrong in a mad few minutes at the end of the first half.

In quick succession, Sefton lost two players to yellow cards and, down to 13, they were struggling as Aspatria smelled blood.

With a handful of minutes remaining in the first period, the visitors again spurned a certain three points and ran a penalty. The Sefton defence was in disarray and outmuscled, allowing back-row Chris Graham to take up the ball and surge over from five metres.

To the surprise of those watching, the referee said there was still time to restart the game, and Aspatria took control with a third try.

Scrum-half Jason Ward was the catalyst for the score with his decision to run a penalty from midfield and dart past several defenders, putting his backline in clear space. Robinson was the last man in the line and, with a superb cut inside the final defender, he was over the line and under the posts to hand Aspatria a 22-12 half-time lead.

The game became attritional with Sefton initially regaining the upper hand but the Aspatria defence, well marshalled by veteran forward Phil Dixon, did well to hold out.

This was a key moment in the game and the effort without reward visibly took something away from the Sefton team.

On 58 minutes, the home team received a third yellow card for dissent and their discipline was beginning to suffer as regular penalties came the way of Aspatria. Most were ran but, on 63 minutes, Aspatria took a more practical line and Clegg extended the lead.

It was just as well that Aspatria had a handy lead as fresh momentum appeared in the home ranks. There was a let-off when they dropped the ball in the act of scoring.

Then, Aspatria failed to clear their line and, from a five-metre scrum, pushed the Black Reds over the line for a try.

The tension eased for Aspatria on 75 minutes when Clegg kicked a penalty for an 11-point advantage.

To Sefton’s credit, they found the energy to hurl a final assault at Aspatria and were rewarded with a score under the sticks but missed the conversion.