Date: Saturday 13th May 2006

PENRITH RUFC completed a remarkable season when they successfully defended the Story Construction County Cup with a defeat of Aspatria in a tough encounter at Wigton.

This secured a memorable league and cup double after the Winters Park men had secured the North 2 East championship at Durham City last month.

Rugby development manager Nigel Beaty said: “The players have done really well to lift their game one more time. The last seven league games were all cup finals so this is just superb.”

While Penrith ultimately ran out comfortable winners over Aspatria on Tuesday, their opponents had beaten both Carlisle and Kendal on the way to the final, prompting Beaty to add: “We have a definite claim to be the number one team in Cumbria.”

Tuesday’s final was always going to be a stern test. Aspatria played with a stiff breeze at their backs in the first half and used it intelligently.

Although Penrith’s forwards dominated the scrums and lineouts, Aspatria were able to keep themselves in the game until half-time. They tested young fullback Dan White on numerous occasions but the teenager showed maturity beyond his years and was a rock at the back.

In the opening exchanges there was little between the two sides but it was Penrith who opened the scoring. Stuart Wilson chased his own chip ahead and was able to gather it and feed Paul Hetherington, who sped clear of the cover to score next to the posts, making the conversion a formality for Coenraad Jansen.

Aspatria then had a long range penalty attempt which went just wide before Jansen had another chance which he took to make it 10-0.

Aspatria were competitive throughout and came back strongly. After several phases of play they finally worked an opening and scored a converted try, closing the gap to three points.

Penrith then managed to put together some decent play. Strong running from deep by Mike Raine and James Stainton created a chance for White, who was tackled into touch just yards short. The Penrith forwards won lineout ball on the 22 and it looked as though they would drive the ensuing maul all the way to the Aspatria line. But in desperation Aspatria collapsed the maul and were penalised.

Wilson kicked the penalty to the corner and after an excellent take by Paul Lowes the forwards powered the maul over the line, setting up a try for top scorer Mark Taylor. Jansen’s conversion attempt came back off the post.

Aspatria replied with a high kick that was allowed to land on the hard pitch. It took a wicked bounce and went to hand to give Aspatria a soft converted try which allowed them to close the gap to a single point.

They took the lead for the only time in the game with a penalty, but their advantage did not last long as they infringed at the restart and Jansen added three points to put Penrith back in front.

Playing into the wind after the interval, Aspatria’s options were limited and as a result Penrith dominated territory and possession.

Jansen extended the lead with another penalty after Wilson was held back chasing a kick ahead, and the Penrith pack made the game safe with a second try after a catch-and-drive from an attacking five-metre lineout. This time it was Mark Bowman who emerged from the back of the maul to score the try. Jansen again converted before leaving the pitch with a nasty gash to the head after colliding with a metal touchline barrier.

As the game wore on there looked to be more tries to be had and Penrith battered the Aspatria line but their opponents defended effectively and bravely.

Penrith had two tries disallowed but Jansen, who had returned to the field after receiving several stitches to his wound, did score another penalty.

The final whistle prompted great scenes of celebration. At the presentation Jansen, whose near perfect place kicking had swung the game, was named man of the match.

This had not been a vintage performance by Penrith, who might have scored more points, but it was honest and workmanlike against a West Cumbrian side who were never going to lie down in a final with so much local pride at stake.

The win completed a record breaking season for the club, who achieved their highest league status and successfully defended the county cup for the first time in their history.

Penrith: Lund, Taylor, R. Wilson (G. Simpson), Lowes, Dawson, Murray, Bowman, Raine ( Stephens), Slack (Swale), S. Wilson, Hetherington, Stainton, Young, Jansen, White.