Carlisle Rugby Club

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Match report Cumbria Cup Final 9th May 2017

Carlisle 29 – St Benedicts 13

A long time coming.

Carlisle finished off their successful season in style by beating St Benedicts in the Cumbria Cup Final

A glorious Spring evening awaited both teams, and credit to Aspatria for providing a very decent playing surface despite the prolonged dry spell. Whilst the temperature started to plummet for the spectators, both sides were fired up for the match, with Carlisle having the better of the early exchanges, keeping St Benedicts pinned in their half for the first 10mins. Carlisle demonstrated their desire to attack when a kickable penalty was put into touch for a lineout 5m on the left touchline, although the West Cumbrians managed to defend the resulting maul, forcing the Carlisle side to re-group.

Carlisle continued to test the St Benedicts defence but were unable to find any gaps. The breakthrough came in the 12th minute from a 5m scrum to Carlisle, when no 8 Josh Holmes peeled off the back and crashed through 3 defenders to burrow over the line for the first Carlisle try. Fly half James Telford was unlucky to hit the post with the conversion attempt from wide out on the right.

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Almost immediately the West Cumbrians hit back from a soft penalty by Carlisle for not retreating 10m to give St Benedicts fly half Steven Wood the easiest of penalty chances to narrow the score to 5-3. 
Telford though had a chance 5 minutes later to increase the lead but pulled his penalty conversion attempt wide. Carlisle could have rued this as moments later, Steven Wood was given another penalty opportunity to put St Benedicts ahead which he duly converted to give the West Cumbrians the lead at 5-6.

Both sides by now were scrapping for every ball, with some fearsome hits and tackles by both sides, but neither side really dominating the game. Defences from both sides were able to snuff out the opposition attacks, with the game played predominantly between each 22m line. As the half drew to a close it was St Benedicts that were going forward, when moments before the referee blew for half-time, a sickening crunch was heard around the ground as St Benedicts player Scott Wood, suffered a double leg break going into a tackle.
With the game being halted whilst his injuries were being attended to, both sides had an enforced rest for nearly an hour until the injured player could be transported off the pitch by ambulance.

Whether through the delay the West Cumbrians lost focus, or Carlisle simply used the time better to analyse the match, it was Carlisle who struck quickly when the second half started. With just a minute gone, Carlisle secured lineout ball on the right, and the ball was quickly fed left across the backline. As winger Robbie James received the ball, he spotted a gap behind the defence and put a grubber kick through, which he managed to collect and fend off the tackle by the St Benedicts centre to touch down for Carlisle's second try, and restore their lead to 10-6.

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Bennies were keen though to make a quick counter attack and were unfortunate not to convert a penalty opportunity a few minutes later. It was Carlisle who seized the opportunity when flanker Guy Graham stormed through the Bennies defence to score under the posts to give Telford the easiest of conversion chances, pushing the score to 17-6.

Any thoughts though this would subdue St Benedicts were mistaken as flyhalf Wood threaded a kick behind the Carlisle defence for centre Hiddleston to score under the posts, Wood giving them the full 7 points, to pull the difference back to 4 points at 17-13.
Any nerves of the Carlisle supporters were soon soothed though as St Benedicts gave away the simplest of penalty opportunities for Telford as Carlisle were pushing forward, to increase the gap to 7 points at 20-13. Then on 64 minutes as a barnstorming run by Guy Graham brought the Carlisle side up to the Bennies 5m line, a pass out wide was knocked down by a West Cumbrian hand to concede another penalty, which Telford duly converted to give Carlisle more than a score lead at 23-13.

Carlisle were slowly strangling the game for St Benedicts and when the West Cumbrians strayed offside at the breakdown on 72mins, Telford duly obliged with another penalty conversion to pretty much secure the game at 26-13. He would have the last score with just a couple of minutes left to play to put it beyond reach of St Benedicts at 29-13, and Carlisle closed out the game to win a thrilling and hard fought game to jubilant scenes from the Carlisle support, who had waited a long time for this moment.

Man of the match was awarded to Guy Graham, which was just reward for an outstanding contribution.

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The squad can justly feel proud of supplying the icing on the cake of what has been a fantastic season to watch and follow the side, as they regrouped from last season.

Head Coach David Stout commented at the end of the game. " A fantastic way to end a wonderful season. Absolutely delighted for the players and everybody involved at the club. A tough game as expected. 
Our second half display though was excellent and really sums up the progress made this season. Aggressive defence, solid set piece with some very well executed handling skills with pace, fitness and confidence. The tactical changes made at half time proved vital and as ever credit to Tom and the squad for making it happen.
They have achieved something few will repeat in a season - 26 wins, 3 losses, promotion and County champions. A lot to be proud of "

Skipper Tom Graham for whom this was his fifth County Cup Final added "EVENTUALLY... we did it!! I couldn't be prouder of the players, coaches, club members, supporters and the club. Totally deserved.
Firstly I would like to wish Scott Wood a speedy recovery and my condolences to St Benedicts, we knew we were in a game and I'll know the morning after. 
A game of two halves although I wouldn't say we were beat in the first half, I don't think we played the way we wanted due to the lack of control and discipline. The second half we were more focused, the panic of the occasion was out the system. The most enjoyable point of the game apart from winning was that what we discussed at half time tactically we did, and it work and there was some great rugby displayed and it gives me great confidence going forward with the lads.
Here's to making history, season done. 
A happy skips"

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Our thanks to Aspatria RUFC for hosting the match, Cumbria RFU, and to Cumbria Referees Society for providing the officials, not only for this match but for much of this season. We may disagree with their decisions at times, but without them we wouldn't be able to watch games like these.

This was a fine way to end the season. As Coach Stout remarked there has been much to be proud of in the way the side have developed this season, but it also bodes well for our ambitions for next season. The club will be looking to maintain and build on this form with a solid performance next season in North 1 West, and we hope you will join us to support them along the way.

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Onwards and upwards.

 

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