ST BENEDICTS 24 PENRITH 23
PENRITH LOSE OUT BY A POINT IN THRILLING FINAL
Penrith were looking to finish the season in style and claim the county cup but lost out by the narrowest of margins and although it was not one of their better performances they were also within minutes as they lost to a penalty in stoppage time. No one in the Penrith camp was complaining, on the day as they marginally underperformed they were beaten by a combative St Benedicts side who as well as competing very physically played quite a bit of decent rugby.
Penrith expected no quarter to be given and it certainly wasn't as both sides went toe to toe from the off, big hits were put in by both sides in an attempt to impose themselves but there was very little to chose between them. St Benedicts had the first chance to open the scoring but a long range penalty went narrowly wide.
Penrith then enjoyed a period of pressure kicking a penalty to the corner and then winning the lineout, Bennies were then penalised as they defended the driving maul and the ball was kicked to the corner a second time but this time the lineout was lost. Penrith continued to press and won a penalty which Mike Fearon slotted for a three point lead.
Bennies came straight back, Penrith were penalised as they chased a clearance kick for being in front of the kicker. Rather than opt for the penalty the Whitehaven side plumped for the scrum back in the Penrith 22. Even at this early stage it was obvious they were missing the influence of South African prop Sanele Mtembu who was devastated to miss the game with an injury picked up the week before. Bennies were bossing the scrums with there being no threat at all to their own ball and this one proved no different and set up a good attacking position, they took full advantage of it when their hard running inside centre burst through the midfield defence to score under the posts.
Penrith came straight back and their backs played their best rugby of the afternoon and opened the west coaster's defence wide open on two occasions with incisive running from Kris Bratton and James Spencer. In both cases the scoring pass was to go astray, the first didn't go to hand and the second was forward.
On the half hour Penrith got to within a point as Bennies were surprising penalised at the set scrum as they shunted it backwards at a rate of knots, Fearon fired the kick over from distance and all was to play for.
Penrith were then themselves penalised at the scrum and to their relief the long range penalty attempt was scuffed but as the half drew to a close they were defending deep in their own 22 and then had to defend a 5m scrum. As they shunted Penrith towards their own line the Bennies' No8 broke and they were able to hold him up over the line. This resulted in a second 5m scrum and this time he learnt his lesson and waited till his fellow forwards had got him almost to the line before he broke for the score. The touchline conversion, which would prove to be pivotal, was well struck and sailed over. It was the last kick of the half and Penrith trailed 6-14.
The second half followed the pattern of the first as both sides went at each other for all they were worth, Fearon narrowly missed a penalty attempt but Penrith couldn't apply the pace and pressure on the game they were hoping to and had done, for most of the season, as they were making too many simple mistakes. They were having to do too much scrummaging and where they were going to produce the match winning plays from was difficult to see. They did get back into the though but it came completely out of the blue. St Benedicts won a scrum in the own half with consummate ease and with all the time it the world played the ball back to clear, Ed Swale
was up like lightening to charge the kick down and the ball ballooned behind the defenders. Swale continued his run was able to gather the bouncing ball and run the try in to light the game up once more.
There was again only a point in it and the informed thinking in the Penrith ranks was if they were in the game going into the final quarter their youth and fitness would pay off, that proved clearly not to be the case but there were a few twists and turns yet as the clock ticked down.
It was Bennies who were to score next and again it was down to their forwards, a massive drive for the line saw them keep possession of the ball for phase after phase, Penrith defended manfully but eventually the pressure told and the centre dived over for his second try. Again the conversion went over and Penrith were now two scores behind.
They opened the game up to the best of their ability and Spencer, Darren Lee
and Jamie McNaughton
all made incisive breaks but the last ditch defending was immense. As the game went into the last ten minutes a rampaging run by Ryan Johnson took play into the red zone, the defenders were penalised and being two scores down Penrith opted for the penalty and Fearon got his side within a score.
Penrith piled on the pressure and looked to have won the game from good lineout ball supplied by JJ Key who had dominated at the front. The ball went into midfield and was run in by Bratton and then came to Tama Toomata who played the ball out of contact to Harlan Corrie who hit the gap at pace and was clean through to the line. The scores were tied at 21 apiece and it wasn't the easiest of conversions, Fearon kept his nerve and the touch judges hesitated but eventually their flags went up and Penrith led.
At this stage 40 minutes has elapsed but there had been a number of stoppages and several minutes were added, JJ Key had run the ball back deep into Bennies territory from the restart but a penalty saw them on the front foot again as they got back in the Penrith half. As the clock ran down they were awarded a penalty for offside some 30m out head on to the posts, again the kicker held his nerve and it looked over from the second it left his boot.
Penrith were a single point down again and desperately needed possession of the ball, they were penalised at the restart, the ball was kicked to touch, the Bennies forwards won the lineout and rumbled and that was the last Penrith saw of the ball as it was kicked to touch and the final whistle went.
Penrith had lost out by a single point but sport is all if's and but's and there were a number of points were the game could have gone either way, they can look back and although it was far from their best performance of the season they had given it their all. Perhaps for once the youthful endeavour that had seen them win games at the death had let them down on the big occasion.