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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Benny's edged out by Zebras

WORKINGTON surrendered their 100 per cent home record in North Lancs Cumbria with, what was described as, their worst performance of the season.The Saints’ forwards and backs had combined well with the ball moving through several pairs of hands. Steve Routledge saw space behind the defence and put a cheeky kick along the ground which m,eant the covering Zebras winger was left isolated.

They went down 18-17 to St Benedict’s at a chilly and windy Ellis Sports Ground but it was a thoroughly deserved success for the visitors.

Benny’s officials were particularly pleased with a fine, all-round team display with some good, open rugby combined with some dogged and defiant defence.

Several key men were unavailable for the Zebras - Robert Scott, Philip Armstrong, Ross Dougherty and Neil Hastings to name but four - and these absences were sorely felt.

For most of the first half, it was the visitors who dominated with rugby that was fluid, efficient and cohesive, compared to the host’s out of character lacklustre and pedestrian offerings.

Clearly, the pain of throwing away victory at Littleborough last week was still in the Workington system.

Saints were first to offer a serious threat with the impressive Craig Halligan picking the ball up from deep after Zebras had cleared their 22.

The big prop ran hard and fast, bumping off a couple of would-be tacklers before popping-up the ball to the supporting Russell Burns. He drove on but was stopped by a high tackle and from the resultant penalty Kris Wood gave his side the lead.

On 11 minutes the visitors were guilty of hands in the ruck and Zebras punished them with a successful penalty from Mike Fearon.

Saints were then forced into a reshuffle when Ryan Fisher went to the blood-bin with a cut head and that brought Steve Nelson into the fray.

After 24 minutes Zebras were penalised for talking back to the referee and Wood slotted his second penalty to restore the Saints’ lead.

The game was one of attrition, with no lack of skill, but five minutes before the break Saints were over-zealous and were caught offside so Fearon’s second penalty put the home side level.

Wood could immediately have restored his side’s advantage but he was just wide with a third attempt at goal.

The game was into first-half injury time when it produced the first try.

Benny’s fly-half Kyle Hiddleston saw some space out wide where Fisher, heavily bandaged to protect his head wound, called for a cross kick. A sublime kick out of hand was caught on the full by Fisher who raced over for a well-worked try which Wood converted.

Zebras began the second half well and had made a few surges deep into St Benny’s 22, but were left reeling on 48 minutes when Wood capitalised on some errant marking.

With Saints swarming all over him he held on too long and was penalised just over the home 22.

Quick-thinking from Wood saw him collect the ball and with the Zebras stopping, believing he was going for three easy points, they switched-off. Wood, however, took a quick tap and then charged through the bewildered defence to score an unconverted try.

This finally woke up Workington and they began to throw everything at the visitors, who were content to allow the game to be bogged down in the middle.

Zebras’ reward were two Fearon penalties in 15 minutes and suddenly, the crowd sniffed a comeback as Saints were now having to look over their shoulders.

The visitors were driving up the left hand side of the field next to the touchline when they lost the ball. Zebras responded by kicking through and it became a foot race between Bede O’Connor and Nelson.

Although O’Connor seemed to get the touchdown by a fraction the referee disallowed the try as he ruled that Nelson had been impeded in the run to the line.

Saints then went on the offensive and with young Jamie Doran running strongly and bursting tackles went close on a couple of occasions to adding to their lead.

But Workington were given a lifeline eight minutes from time when O’Connor sprang from nowhere to glide over the whitewash out wide.

Fearon was unlucky with his conversion attempt and even more so four minutes later, when a mid range penalty fell achingly short. Workington gave their all in the closing minutes, but were frustrated and thwarted by some quality resistance from the St Benedict’s backline.

The result seriously dented Workington’s play-off credentials and they remain in sixth, some eight points behind second-placed Aldwinians, while St Benedict’s move up to ninth but just three points behind the Zebras.

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