Plucky St Benedict’s did not disgrace themselves in defeat as they battled bravely in a 15-6 defeat against Carlisle Rugby Club in North One West.

With lots of matches around the county and beyond being cancelled due to the freezing conditions, the Mirehouse venue was passed fit and, despite the sticky conditions underfoot, the teams got through it to the end.

Carlisle were desperate to end a four-match losing streak, and finish the year with a win while Saints were keen to show they’d be no pushovers and their position at the bottom of the table is not a foregone conclusion.

For the first five minutes, the hosts probed away at the Carlisle defence.

Indeed, it was the visitors who were guilty of creating possession for Saints as they began to get penalised at the breakdown and had to be lively in defence.

Gradually, though, Carlisle began to establish themselves through the driving maul, and were soon pushing deep into the home half.

With the first scrum won by Carlisle against the head, they soon had an opportunity to scrum again, and marched the home side back over their try line, with No.8 James Brocket marshalling the ball over for Carlisle’s first try, converted by scrum-half Max Connon.

Then, a great break by winger Ben Purdham took the ball deep into the Saints half.

A series of rucks from the Carlisle forwards took the ball up to the home try line and Angus Fulton was unlucky not to score in the corner, with the referee unsighted of the grounding.

It was the penalties that were beginning to give Carlisle problems, and one in front of the posts, gave Saints an easy three points through stand-off Ryan Fisher.

Although Carlisle’s line-out misfired throughout the game, there was no mistake a few moments later, when line-out ball on the half wayline was quickly swung across the backline for winger Robbie James to round the last defender and score in the right corner.

Benny’s kept probing Carlisle for weaknesses in their defence and, though the visitors defended well, another offside decision gave Fisher another easy three points in front of the posts to keep them in touch.

They could have been even closer as both prop Jamie Jardine and centre Steve Nelson were very close to getting over the Carlisle line.

With five minutes of the half left, Carlisle won a series of scrums on the home 22, and were keen to replicate their first try. However, Saints won a rare penalty at the scrum to clear their line.

Carlisle’s full-back James Roke did get an opportunity to go down the right touchline but was bundled into touch just short of the try line and the half ended 12-6 to Carlisle.

The second half was pretty much all Saints for the first 15 minutes, as Carlisle had to defend well.

The increasing penalty count didn’t help as this just gave the home side opportunities to keep Carlisle pinned deep into their own half.

A missed penalty opportunity by Fisher after 50 minutes let Carlisle off the hook and allowed the city side the chance to finally get out of their own half.

Midway through the second half, Carlisle won a series of scrum penalties but were unable to convert that into field advantage and finally Connon decided to take the three points on offer, to extend the lead to nine points.

By now, the Carlisle pack was dominating the set-pieces and Saints lost their tight-head to the bin after 70 minutes. However, the extra man didn’t result in any material advantage for Carlisle.

Although a couple of good breaks by Brocket and centre Dan Holmes took the ball deep into Benny’s territory, Carlisle were unable to convert this into points, with Connon missing a penalty a few minutes before the end of the game, as the gloom and cold descended on Mirehouse.

The game eventually ended a few minutes later, leaving Carlisle with a win that was much-needed following a series of disappointing results.

For Benny’s, well served by their man-of-the-match Fisher, Craig Halligan and young Declan McKenna, playing only his second senior game, it was a gritty effort with several experienced players still missing.