NOT often have Penrith had successful runs in the Cumbria Cup, ...
NOT often have Penrith had successful runs in the Cumbria Cup, but after an impressive performance against Wigton on Saturday, they have reached the final for the third time in 15 years.
They lost to Aspatria in both the 1985 and 1992 finals, but in two weeks will face Workington in an effort to emulate their predecessors who won the trophy in 1960.
This semi-final was an absorbing contest, played in good spirit and although the last 30 minutes were scoreless, Wigton had chances to snatch a late victory. A typical cup tie produced many mistakes but the commitment of both teams could not be faulted and was much appreciated by a large crowd.
The North I visitors had the bigger pack but Penrith held them in the tight and competed well in the loose. Paul Lowes at the front and Kevin Walker at the rear of line-outs outjumped their opponents not only to claim their own throws, but to pinch seven of Workington’s.
The home back division gave nothing away in defence and were a force to be reckoned with in attack, with several thrusts stopped just short of the line.
Wigton opened the scoring in the second minute when Penrith lost a ruck near halfway, then messed up the clearance of a hack downfield. From a line-out on the 22, the blindside winger came in close to the stand off and burst clean through for a converted try under the posts.
The home pack then initiated a sustained attack of pick-ups and rucking and for many minutes kept the visitors defending. Wigton weathered this and put together some running moves but wayward passing and hesitation disrupted any progress. They even created a clear overlap, only for the left wing to knock on the final pass.
They scored again to take a 14-point lead in the 20th minute when a rolling maul made 15 metres for a converted try.
The second quarter, however, saw a strong rally from Penrith and good ball retention by the forwards took them deep into Wigton territory where Simon Veitch scored a penalty. Within minutes he added a 40-metre drop goal and so Penrith turned round only eight points in arrears.
Penrith produced the same explosive start to the second half that Wigton had enjoyed at the beginning of the first.
Veitch’s grubber kick secured a line-out near the visiting 22 line and Lowes grabbed their throw-in. A short pass on the burst from the stand
off to Phil Watson enabled him to touch down under the posts and Veitch’s conversion reduced Wigton’s lead to a single point.
Penrith maintained the pressure and Dave Preston made a strong run down the left after collecting a bad clearance kick. James Lund was held inches short and then Bob Lee was also held short of the line. The ball was quickly moved to the right along the back line and despite being warned by the referee that he was offside, a defender illegally prevented Dale Siddle from scoring. The expected penalty try was not awarded but Veitch’s kick gave the Penrithians the lead for the first time.
Watson again burst through but this time was tackled and both Lee and Glen Murray also went close. Wigton, with fewer opportunities, always tried to get their big Tongan centre Loa Tupou away and although he occasionally made a break, the cover defence did not allow him to get clear. One dangerous run saw him bundled into touch only 15 metres out by a memorable tackle from Stuart Hook.
Wigton’s chance of victory vanished in the 30th minute when stand off Warwick hit the post with an easy penalty attempt and almost immediately also missed a dropped goal.
For the last five minutes, plus the four of injury-time, Penrith retained possession deep in the Wigton half, determined not to concede any scoring chances.
From a tentative beginning, Penrith had gained in confidence throughout and thoroughly deserved their big day at the cup final.
Penrith: Lund (capt.), Lee, Dixon, Preston (Dawson 80), Lowes, Murray, Walker, Shepherd, Dent, Veitch, Robinson, Watson, Knubley, Siddle, Hook.
Today the first XV play their postponed Thwaites League match at Altrincham. Kick off 3pm.