Gritty performance earns victory
Blackpool maintained their unbeaten start to 2018 with a fantastic win away to Cumbrian outfit Kirkby Lonsdale in an end to end contest. The visitors squad depth came into play as despite a number of players being absent through injury and unavailability from the previous week's defeat of Preston they were able to name a strong side for the trip up north.
The away side started the game the better of the two sides and were unlucky not to take the lead with only some great scrambling defence from the hosts, combined with the final pass not sticking denying the visitors the chance to open the scoring. After this early period of pressure, Blackpool found themselves pressed into defensive duties as Kirkby, aided by a number of penalties in their favour, laid siege to the visitors line with try saving tackles from Antony Clark, Gordon Richmond and Chris Moore amongst others keeping the hosts at bay.
Switching from defence to attack the visitors picked off a loose Kirkby pass which allowed Adam Glover to produce an excellent long ball to send Ashley Swarbrick racing away down the touchline with the winger leaving the defenders in his wake as he sprinted 75m to score a superb try. The home side hit back as a number of infringements gifted them field position and possession, which they exploited to cross for a converted try under the sticks.
Blackpool came storming back as they stepped up a gear and retook the lead as powerful scrummaging deep in the Kirkby half saw the home pack pushed back and allowed Kyle Bedford to peel off from the base of the scrum before smashing through a number of would be tacklers to touch down with James Carty adding the conversion. Minutes later the visitors went further ahead as strong carries from Pete Wilkinson and Callum Reid brought their side within touching distance of the hosts tryline before Mick Harrison rampaged over the whitewash from close range with Carty again adding the extras. With the last action of the half the home side cut the deficit as Blackpool were adjudged to have a committed an infringement that prevented a clear scoring opportunity which saw the awarding of a penalty try for the hosts and the visitors temporarily reduced to 14 men as one of their number was dispatched to the sin-bin.
Kirkby attempted to use their numerical advantage as the second stanza began, but found themselves met by determined and dogged Blackpool defending with Chris Parlour, Luke Crosbie and Russell Woodward leading the way with some fantastic scrambling defence to deny the hosts. Once they had returned to a full compliment the visitors increased their advantage as second row pair Greg Jones and Tristan Ainscough made great yards, setting the platform for Clark to fire out a short pass to send Bedford powering his way through the defenders and over the whitewash for his second try of the afternoon with Carty adding his third successful conversion.
As the second half wore on, the game turned into a war of attrition as both teams battled to gain the upper hand with Blackpool suffering a double setback as Carty and Harrison were forced off with injury and were unable to return. With around a quarter of the match left the home side narrowed the margin between the sides as they scored a converted try that had more than a hint of a knock on in the build up to it before taking the lead as they profited from back to back penalties to force their way over to go 28 – 26 in front.
Determined not to let this game slip from their grasp the away side came roaring back as good work by Dave Donald and Manasa Walevu laid the platform for the ball to swept out wide with Swarbrick delivering the coup de grace as he dived over in the corner for his second try of the day to put Blackpool back in front. With the clock counting down Kirkby threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Blackpool, but were denied time and again by backs to wall, bodies on the line defending from the visitors with Parlour, Glover and Richmond at the fore as they hung on for a fantastic 31 – 28 win.
Blackpool's victory means that they only second team this season to come away from Kirkby on the winning side and they could be proud of the effort, commitment and character on show from every single member of the team. A number of players had excellent games and were in the running for man of match, but in the end the honour fittingly went to Kyle Bedford, who carried the fight to Kirkby and scored two well taken tries. Blackpool will be hoping to maintain their winning run when they play host to Bolton next Saturday in a top of the table clash.
Team: 1. Pete Wilkinson 2. Chris Parlour 3. Mick Harrison 4. Greg Jones 5. Tristan Ainscough 6. Russell Woodward 7. Callum Reid 8. Kyle Bedford 9. Luke Crosbie 10. Adam Glover 11. Chris Moore 12. James Carty 13. Antony Clark 14. Ashley Swarbrick 15. Gordon Richmond
Replacements: 16. Manasa Walevu 17. Dave Donald 18. Adam Worrall
Tries: Bedford (2), Swarbrick (2), Harrison
Conversions: Carty 3/4, Bedford 0/1