Penrith claim fourth consecutive county title Cup winners again!
PENRITH won their fourth consecutive county cup final with a workmanlike performance at Workington against a combative Carlisle side.
Every time Penrith seemed to have put the game to bed the city side bounced back and the contest was in the balance right until the end.
Carlisle played the first half with the breeze at their backs and had chance to use it in the first minute when Penrith were penalised head on to the posts some 30 metres out for hanging on to the ball. The penalty attempt went wide and play swung to the other end. This time Carlisle were penalised but the kick was rather nearer to the posts and Steve Wood chipped it over for an early lead.
There was little to chose between the sides to begin with. Play was in midfield until the intervention of skipper Mike Raine. He made an interception on halfway and was eventually pulled down on the 22, the ball was spun wide against a retreating defence and James Ellar went for the gap wide out.
He was half held, but managed to play the ball out of the tackle as Joe Nattrass came off his wing, took the pop pass and broke the line. He was hauled down by the last defender some 10 metres out and centre James Sanderson was on hand to take the pass and run the try in at the corner.
Penrith then had much the better of the rest of the half and on the half hour went further ahead from a five-metre scrum. No. 8 Raine worked miracles at the back of the scrum all game, turning poor possession at the back of a retreating scrummage into ball Paul Newton could do something with. This five-metre scrum was no different and after a couple of rucks the ball was moved wide to the left. There looked to be no room to work in but Phil Fell created just enough space for Ed Swale to get around the outside and he went in at the corner and round under the posts for an easy Wood conversion and a 15-point lead.
That perhaps should have been that, but far from it. Carlisle came back strongly and for the first time in the game had some possession in the Penrith 22 in the final minutes of the half. Their big second row forward looked to be in at the corner, but Nattrass just managed to force him a foot into touch.
They did then score a nice try when they moved the ball quickly wide to the left and then cut back inside the scrambling cover.
A 15-7 lead at half-time and Penrith were still two scores in front, but Carlisle started much better than them after the break. They had a try disallowed for a double movement and then put the Penrith defence under further pressure and won a penalty that went over to pull them back within a score.
This was perhaps the wake-up call that was required and play swung to the other end. Raine tidied the ball up from another five-metre scrum, the forwards drove for the line and were then held up. The ball went to Wood who found Ellar with a long pass, he made the half break and when he had pulled in the cover he released Fell who took a short pass at pace off his should to break the line cleanly and go in under the posts.
Again the game looked to be won and again the city side came back, this time with a sweeping run from halfway, aided by some poor tackles, and a try under the posts. Only a score in it once more with 20 minutes to go.
Penrith looked pretty solid and then sealed the game with four minutes left. They were awarded a penalty on halfway after a lineout infringement and Wood struck the it into touch within inches of the corner flag and his side had a five-metre lineout. The Penrith pack had not been able to boss their opposite number to any extent up to this point but now they had their chance. Rob Dawson took the throw as clean as a whistle and they drove for the line. They had narrowly failed with a catch and drive earlier in the game but this time made sure and Ian McDowell was able to ground the ball well over the line.
Now two scores behind, Carlisle threw everything into attack with a final flourish. They went very close to crossing the Penrith line again, but could not quite manage and Penrith had retained their title.
Ryan Johnson collected the man of the match award he stood out with his strong running, one breathtaking 50-metre break and a lot of hits at the business end in and around the rucks and mauls.
It was a hard, well contested game and Penrith came out worthy winners, there being no argument with a two score winning margin and a four to two try count.
Penrith: Thornton, McDowell, Price (Carr), Dawson, Johnson, Hodgson, Stephens (Gardham), Raine, Newton, Wood, Nattrass, Sanderson (Harrison), Ellar, Swale, P. Fell. Subs not used: Feeney, Chapman, Littleton, Hunter.