PERCY Park’s ‘triple A’ rating was downgraded after the fifth straight entry in the debit column.
After a much improved display last week, Park lapsed back into one dimensional rugby and played into the hands of the bigger pack of the side from the Wirral.
The visitors, who were delayed due to the M62 being closed, showed no ill effects from their long journey and scored inside two minutes without Percy Park touching the ball.
An excellent kick-off with the optimum hang time allowed Birkenhead to win the ball and go through several phases before Percy Park were penalised for offside.
The kick to the corner resulted in a catch and drive with Park’s nemesis Stuart Brown controlling the ball at the back of the maul and going over for the try.
The home side came back at Birkenhead, and playing an advantage for offside, spun the ball left, but Phil Morse was bundled off the pitch into the fence just short of the line.
Play was taken back for the penalty in front of the posts which Ash Smith converted.
A second penalty on 18 minutes gave Percy Park a 6-5 lead.
Two minutes later, the Birkenhead tight head prop was shown a yellow card for punching Brett Sylph in the lineout, but Smith missed the penalty kick at goal.
Still a man down, the visitors were awarded a lineout on the Percy Park 22, a lapse in concentration saw a quick front lineout ball and hooker Brown went over for a second try, which was unconverted.
On the stroke of half-time, Smith had another penalty chance from long range, but the ball fell short and was cleared off the pitch as the Birkenhead side retreated to the warmth of the changing room along with the referee, as Percy Park elected to remain on the pitch for the duration of the break.
In the second half Percy Park continued in the same vein of gaining ground inch by inch in trench warfare against a pack that relished this type of play.
Smith kicked his third penalty to bring the home side within a point of the visitors.
Park had their best spell of the game at this point with Smith making a telling break through the Birkenhead defence, but the ball was knocked on with the last man to beat ten metres out from the try line.
The turning point in the game came on 63 minutes when instead of kicking for goal Park opted for the lineout five metres out. This seemed like the right option when the ball was won and a maul was set up and driven towards the line.
Birkenhead attempted to pull down the maul and with an advantage coming, the whistle blew, and Sylph was shown a yellow card for taking the law into his own hands, and a great scoring opportunity was lost.
The heavier more cumbersome pack from Birkenhead were looking to slow the game down as much as possible, as injury after injury ensued.
With normal time almost out, the visitors were awarded a penalty which they kicked to the corner, and Brown scored his hat-trick try.
With time running out and 9-15 down, a converted try would give Percy Park a narrow win, but instead of trying to stretch the tiring Birkenhead forwards they kept up the attritional stuff and eventually lost the ball, and with eight minutes of injury time played the referee brought the game to an end.
Although Birkenhead are still in the relegation zone, the vital four points brings them closer to Bradford and Bingley who are above them in the league.
Percy Park remain in fourth place but the other teams are closing, with next week’s opposition Billingham just behind.