After last week’s demolition of their near neighbours, Kendal, home supporters in the clubhouse before the game were talking of a ‘damage limitation exercise’. But the players had other ideas and an awesome defensive effort and better use of the difficult conditions, put an end to Hoppers’ 17-game winning run.
Words by Ken Moore, photo by Mike Craig
A strong cross wind and heavy ground dictated the tactics and Hoppers started well putting the home pack under pressure with a series of pick and drives. On 10 minutes, a blindside move from a maul saw Scott Jordan touch down in the corner but the kick failed.
Kirkby responded by gaining territory with some tactical kicking and it was Hoppers’ turn to defend until a wayward clearance kick set up a counter attack and some slick hands and a missed tackle put scrum half Ben Walker under the posts and Tom Pickthall’s kick put his side 7-5 ahead.
Hoppers’ direct running attacks were met by some aggressive tackling with crash-ball merchants James Fitzpatrick and Matt Lamprey well contained and frustration boiled over, producing three yellow cards, Jordan for Hoppers and Walker and Pickthall for Kirkby.
Hoppers were unable to make the extra man tell, still failing to break the line and it remained 7-5 at the break.
Handling errors continued to frustrate Hoppers’ pressure and the home pack managed to continually slow down release from the ruck and Hoppers’ cause was not helped when coach Paul Arnold queried the tactic with referee Woods and was despatched to the bin.
But a prolonged attack from Hoppers looked like producing a score and duly did but at the other end as a dropped ball near the home line was seized on and a break-away saw wing Harry Huddleston touch down and Pickthall’s conversion was followed by a penalty to make it 17-5.
Restored to the field, Arnold then took things in hand, running in from the 22 and Jake Squirrell’s conversion gave some hope. But Hoppers’ day was summed up when, after a rare break, Sam Gale, was red-carded.
Coach Arnold congratulated Kirkby on great defence and being ‘the better side on the day’. “We made too many mistakes and they used the wind to better effect. I take full responsibility for the defeat but the unbeaten monkey is off our back and we need to regroup and get back to winning ways.”