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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Carlisle edged out by Northwich in another close result

Carlisle 6 Northwich 11: Carlisle stayed mid-table in North One West after a gruelling struggle with Northwich at Warwick Road ended in an 11-6 victory for the visitors.

Rugby union photo
Carlisle's Glen Weightman on the attack

Having last played at the end of January, when they overcame Wigton at Warwick Road, Carlisle have been frustrated with a two- week break.

Their away fixture with Broughton Park has twice been postponed due to the weather. That said, the weather almost intervened again on Saturday.

On Friday the pitch had recovered and was in great condition. Overnight rain was expected but not the downpour that left the ground swamped in midfield pools.

Determined not to be deprived of a match, several of the players responded to an early morning call to help the groundsman to make sure rugby went ahead. A couple of hours hard graft, and three hours of sun and wind worked wonders and the game went ahead on time.

Hard graft didn’t end there though, because Carlisle were confronted by a Northwich team still in the hunt for the promotion play off place, and buoyed by their last away victory at leaders, Sandbach.

So, the city men knew they were in for an afternoon of hard work especially as Northwich had vanquished Carlisle in Cheshire early in the season, with a 50-point demolition.

Since then though, Carlisle have improved beyond recognition, and although they occupy eighth slot in the table, the relegation spots are by no means settled.

Whilst all below them, with the exception of Anselmians, lost on Saturday, Carlisle’s losing bonus point, gives them he comfort of mid table for the time being!

Warwick Road was not a place for purists on Saturday afternoon even if what was on display was an absorbing encounter.

The Carlisle pack, dependable as ever, had an afternoon that tested their mettle, but then the same can be said of Northwich who, despite there obvious weight advantage were unable to make any inroads.

The Carlisle defensive operation was successful in keeping them at bay, certainly in the opening half.

Just after the midway point in the first half Northwich lost their scrum half, Mike Gallimore to a yellow card, although within five minutes his team were ahead through a penalty from fly half Grant Hallam.

Carlisle recovered from this set back and, playing towards the clubhouse, managed to exert a period of pressure on the line, but the visitors’ defence held firm.

Fly half Glen Weightman drew his side level seven minutes before the break with a fine dropped goal.

Equal at the break, Carlisle were forced into making a change to the front row as prop Joe Anderson was feeling unwell and had to be replaced by Ed Faulder.

Within three minutes of the restart prop Lawrence Cray managed to get through the Carlisle defence for an unconverted try. It followed the most testing spell of the match for the home defence.

It was nip and tuck for long periods and probably a matter of who could hold their nerve the longest.

Carlisle brought-on Lee Brumpton at eight for Gareth Wylie and on 55 minutes Weightman slipped up with a penalty that would have tightened things up a little.

Mark Barron replaced flanker Dan Smithson on 63 minutes and soon afterwards the advantage to Northwich went out eight points when Hallam pinged a penalty over.

It was not what Carlisle needed at this point, but undeterred and to their credit, they tried to make amends.

With three minutes of normal time left Weightman opted to take a penalty rather than a scrum and pulled it back to 11-6 as there was still a chance that they could grab the spoils.

Keeping Northwich under pressure, Carlisle managed to retain possession and were unlucky not to get over.

It was not a result that perhaps even Northwich were anticipating but overall perhaps they just edged it!

A losing bonus point puts Carlisle on 40 points and although it might look comfortable nothing can be taken for granted.

Two successive away matches follow, both to sides below them – Broughton Park next Saturday, followed by a trip to Wilmslow. It’s essential that the Warwick Road men get some return from these two fixtures, because they too are fighting for survival.

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