Carlisle slipped further into North Premier relegation trouble with a 39-21 defeat at Wirral.

But probably more concerning than the defeat was another season-ending knock as forward Tanian Naude suffered a serious ankle injury which is likely to need surgery.

Carlisle are now four points short of safety, with second-bottom Morpeth a point behind.

After only three minutes Wirral took the lead with an unconverted try from a catch and drive.

Carlisle had given away a number of penalties and in the ninth minute lost James Telford to the bin.

Almost immediately the hosts scored their second try and a fine touchline conversion into the wind stretched the advantage.

Still operating with 14 men, Carlisle conceded again on 15 minutes with a well-taken try in the corner after good backs play.

Back to full strength, Carlisle couldn’t do anything about Wirral’s bonus-point try, the result of some excellent handling.

Trailing 22-0 after the first quarter, Carlisle used the wind better and retained the ball to put Wirral under pressure.

But at a line-out Naude fell awkwardly and the game was held up for several minutes.

Wirral withstood the pressure and went back on the attack and when in a promising position a player from each side was sin-binned a minute before the interval.

Immediately after the restart Carlisle were hit again when Wirral scored a converted try to extend the lead.

Wirral were reduced to 13 men for a short period when they had a second player yellow-carded. Carlisle then played the possession game and were aided by the penalty count which had now turned substantially in their favour.

On 61 minutes Josh Holmes burrowed over for the first Carlisle try which was converted by Max Connon. A few minutes later Ben Purdham burst through to score 10 metres from the corner flag.

On 73 minutes Wirral had a third player yellow-carded but it did not stop them from scoring another converted try.

Back came Carlisle and they were rewarded with a third try by Dan Holmes converted by Connon.

In injury time, Carlisle were close to a bonus-point try, only for the referee to rule that the ball had been held up over the line.