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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Keswick lift Cumbria Plate to complete double

Keswick have completed a League and Plate double, and they have treble prospects if they win at Silloth on April 21 in their last fixture of the season.

Rugby union photo
Keswick's Viv Wilmot

The Cumbria League champions beat Silloth 24-15 at Wigton on Saturday to land the Cumbria Plate, and ahead of their final game they lead the League Cup table.

The Plate clash didn’t produce a classic, but did highlight Keswick’s ability to play some outstanding open rugby and underlined Silloth’s progress as a competitive unit, two years after returning to League fare.

After impressive victories over Whitehaven and Egremont in the previous rounds, this was just one step too far for the Seasiders who were enthusiastically backed by around 300 travelling supporters.

Injuries played a key part in events. Silloth went into the final without influential skipper Jamie Baxter, powerhouse lock Greg Wrathall and experienced coach Mark Orchard.

Keswick, however, had to re-organise their side in the second half after injuries to number eight Aaran Thompson, who had been the best forward on the field; inspiring skipper Matty Roper and fleet-footed Andy Wallace.

While those players were on the pitch Keswick had control and by contrast Silloth badly missed the contributions of their absent trio, so that early in the second-half the League champions had established a 24-3 lead.

Credit to Silloth, however, they finished strongly to score two tries, one of them converted, which just gave them a squeak of a chance of causing an upset. Keswick, however, always had something in hand

Keswick took an early lead with a long-range penalty by Brian Storey and they continued to put Silloth under pressure.

Despite some excellent defence from Silloth, the chances did appear for Keswick and they were guilty of some rather poor finishing.

Ricky Sutcliffe had the chance to level the game for Silloth but was wide with a penalty.

Keswick’s counter attacking was outstanding and the first try of the game came when Silloth were dragged out wide by the Keswick forwards.

The ball was switched back across the pitch and it was the outstanding Thompson who got in at the corner for an unconverted score.

The lead was extended soon afterwards after a brilliant passing move had split the Silloth defence and it was Michael Branthwaite who finished-off with a second unconverted try.

Silloth’s first half nerves had been showing but as they got into the game they started to collect themselves and play better.

They were able to reduce the deficit with a Phil Scott penalty but just before the break Storey kicked one for Keswick to enable them to turn round 16-3 to the good.

Silloth coach Orchard made changes at half-time and brought lock Joe Smith and prop Ross Beresford into the pack as they looked to get back into the game.

However they got off to the worst possible start when Keswick scored an early try in the corner from Jamie McKenzie.

Then a Storey penalty appeared to have put them out of sight at 24-3.

Gradually, however, things started going wrong for Keswick.

David Ray was sin-binned and there had to be changes because of injuries, so Silloth gained some impetus.

A long run from Sutcliffe, almost the length of the field, gave them a lift and soon afterwards they scored when prop Dan Yeoman crashed through three tacklers to score under the posts. Scott added the extras.

The Silloth faithful in the big crowd sensed there might just be a revival, so when they scored again it set-up an interesting final ten minutes.

A great backs move saw Will Miller break tackle after tackle before crossing the line but the conversion was missed.

Keswick used their know how to see them through to the final whistle to complete the second leg of their treble target. It’s Silloth who stand between them and that goal.

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