ON a day blighted yet again by snow and bad weather, Percy Park against Kendal was only one of three games played in National 3 North.
Despite the A66 being closed due to snow and the team bus not arriving at the allotted time, Park’s players and posse of supporters arrived via the A68 and M6 to Mint Bridge where the previous day’s snow had gone, but still covering surrounding hills and mountains.
The strong easterly wind made the chill factor well below freezing, but in spite of the cold both sides played their part in an entertaining game.
Kendal kicked off with Park receiving, sporting white and red shirts to accommodate the home side’s black strip, in this league the away team changes in the event of a colour clash.
Inside five minutes Park were awarded a penalty which Ash Smith struck well, and it appeared to be on target, but the swirling wind moved the ball off centre and it hit the post and bounced out.
Kendal retrieved the ball and a clearance kick into the strong wind found full-back Michael Stephenson who ran the ball back.
Kendal repelled the counter attack, but quick ball through the back line found flanker Jack Davidson who finished off a good try. Ash Smith made amends for the earlier missed penalty and Park led 7-0 after eight minutes.
In the run up to the try, James Bird had ploughed through several tackles, leaving injured players in his wake, and as a result, scrum-half Dini Nayo was taken from the field on a stretcher with a serious knee injury which will probably keep him out for the remainder of the season.
Ten minutes later, Park were awarded a scrum inside the Kendal 22, number eight Ben Bell picked up and evaded a couple of tackles to go over for the try which was again converted by Smith.
The home side reduced the deficit with a penalty by Dan Lowther.
The two packs keenly contested ball in both the loose and tight, but Kendal were hampered later when influential number eight Gary Holmes had to move into the centre and the injuries in the back line took their toll.
Another clearance kick found Park’s player coach Michael Stephenson and a switch with Howard Stock advanced play well into home territory before Phil Morse was on the end of a good pass which put him in the space to make it to the line for Park’s third try on 35 minutes.
Park definitely had the upper hand, which is why the visiting supporters were bemused when after a team warning Stu Wilson was sent to the bin for a professional foul, followed two minutes later by Michael Birkett and Park were down to 13 players, despite having had more of the ball and territory.
Kendal were no threat in the backs, but the forwards kept the ball tight and with the numerical superiority eventually went over on 51 minutes with a try by Gary Lowther. The conversion was missed and the whistle went for half-time.
Park were playing up hill and against the wind in the second half, so kicking to touch was not much of an option in defence, so Park ran most of their possession, with possibly the best move of the day finishing off with Michael Stephenson scoring in the left hand corner after Ash Smith and Ali Blair had advanced play from deep inside their own half.
The Cumbrians kept up their spirits despite being 24-8 down, with jinking runs by centre Jason Poleman, but when they were dispossessed by replacement Adam Morton, he raced up field with defenders in hot pursuit, realising he was not going to make the line the Park centre through a wide pass to Ali Blair in support on his right, and he went over unopposed for the try on 63 minutes. Once again the woodwork denied Ash Smith but Park now led 29-8.
Two minutes later, Park added to their tally when awarded a penalty in their own half, quick thinking by Ash Smith caught the home side on the hop and Davidson on the left flank broke several tackles before surging to the line to score his second try of the game.
Kendal had the consolation of a late try by prop Alistair Livesey on 77 minutes from a well executed catch and drive from a lineout.
Park saw out the remaining minutes of the game for the bonus point win on the road.
Back at Preston Avenue, Park’s Lions, Pumas and Marauders were all scheduled to be in action.
The Lions won 52-0 against Westoe II, but the league leading Pumas were denied a game when their opposition turned up with only eight players and decided against playing. The Marauders went down 24-17 to Morpeth Stags.
Next week the Lions and Penguins and both in cup final action at Bullocksteads, with the Lions hoping to regain the cup which they lost last year to Alnwick II. They take on Corbridge Centurions at 2pm.
The Penguins are hoping to retain the cup they won last season against Rockcliff Rangers and will play another Centurions, this time from Novos, kick-off 4pm.