Match report Carlisle v Douglas 5-1-19
Carlisle ring in the New Year with a solid performance against Douglas
Carlisle went into this match with a healthy 13 point lead achieved before the Christmas break, but with no complacency about the task ahead.
Douglas were a tough side to play at home on the Isle of Man, and nobody expected any less, despite the fact the visitors had been on the road forever to get to Carlisle.
Carlisle started from the kick off with a real sense of urgency to hit the visitors hard, and within 2 minutes Douglas gifted fly half Grant Connon the chance for 3 points in front of the posts, which he duly took.
Carlisle kept the pressure up on the visitors who were forced on to the back foot for much of the first 20 minutes in the first half. Connon slotted a ball through to right winger Jonathan Crichton who was just beaten to the touch down by the Douglas defender. Then a sustained period of pick and gos in the Douglas 5m area was just thwarted by some impressive defensive work by the visitors, who managed to win a penalty to relieve the pressure.
The relief was only temporary as Carlisle marched back up the field gaining a 5m line out for their efforts. Douglas managed to defend the lineout well enough, but Carlisle were still in possession .Moving the ball into the centre of the park, scrum half James Telford bagged the first try of the day under the posts, from the back of a ruck on the 5m line, converted by Connon.
There was no let up from the home side as they continued to look for opportunities to break the Douglas defence. They extended their lead on 35minutes as they caught the visitors offside at the ruck, and Connon just doesn't miss from in front of the posts.
Douglas finally managed to break into the game with just a few minutes left of the first half, gaining possession deep into the Carlisle territory from a penalty put into touch. From the resulting lineout, they pushed hard up towards the Carlisle try line, and only some desperate defending kept the Douglas forwards out. Then as Carlisle were sucked into defending the rucks around the posts, Douglas swung the ball left where they had numbers. Unfortunately for them, the final pass was knocked on with an almost certain try beckoning, and the referee blew for the end of the half.
This disappointing end to the first half didn't upset their momentum, and from the start of the second half they displayed a greater degree of urgency, keeping the Carlisle defence busy. Carlisle kept their shape though and forced Douglas back to the half way line, gaining a throw in for good measure. Finally winger Andy Glendinning got the chance to take a quick throw in that he's threatened all season, taking everyone but Max Connon by surprise, who offloaded to a grateful brother Grant who then ran from half way, beating the last defender to score Carlisle's second try, and extend the lead to 18-0 with 6 minutes gone of the second half.
Douglas tried hard to get back on terms with Carlisle, but the home side were defending well. Injuries were starting play a part in the game though, as Carlisle quickly lost a couple of players to the bench. Then as Douglas were starting push up, centre Dan Holmes was carded for a no arms tackle, and Douglas made the extra man count.
They scored their first try just moments later, breaking from deep, to score in the left corner on 65minutes. Carlisle barely had a chance to regroup when the visitors pushed up in numbers down the left, and scored a converted try to narrow the scores to 18-12.
Carlisle had to weather a number of forays by Douglas into home territory before they finally were restored to full strength. Holmes made the most of his 10min break by immediately making some hard yards up into the Douglas half, and Carlisle made the most of the territorial possession. Gaining a penalty, Connon made sure of a 5m line out for Carlisle, and the side rolled the resulting maul up and over the line, Chris Auld being held up on his back. The scrums though were all going Carlisle's way by this time, and after a number of scrums, Carlisle eventually managed to hold things square and drove Douglas back over the line, leaving Telford the easiest of tasks to dive over for the third Carlisle try. With Connon converting from out wide to move the score to 25-12 with just a couple of minutes left, it gave Douglas little opportunity to strike back and Carlisle saw out the rest of the game to secure a precious win and keep their home record intact.
Not the classiest of games, but nonetheless an intriguing one given the previous match in Douglas and the current league positions of the two sides. There won't be many stronger sides that Carlisle face in this league, and taking 4 points from them was a welcome start to 2019.
The ultra competitive nature of this league meant that whilst the second, third, fifth and sixth sides all lost today, Carlisle gained another two points on their nearest rivals Blackburn, extending their lead in the league to 15 points.
A quick glance at the stats shows that there is only 11 points separating 2nd and 12th place in the league, and its likely that a very decent team is going to occupy the last relegation place this season. Although we visit 12th place Broughton Park next Saturday, we need to make sure there is no complacency about our position, especially since they turned over second place Stockport today.