Bonus points make the difference as Penrith avoid the drop
PENRITH started their game at Stockport knowing they needed two points to guarantee their level six status whatever happened in the games around them. They did exactly what they had to do, securing two bonus points but no more.
However, celebrations were somewhat muted because, going into added time, they led by five points, but then conceded a try under the posts which denied them the win and took the edge off their afternoon’s efforts.
Penrith were up for the challenge from the start and had a good spell of possession in the opening minutes, but then put themselves under pressure by turning the ball over, conceding penalties and having to do a lot of defending in their own 22.
They found themselves behind within 10 minutes as the home side first set up a rolling maul from a lineout 20 metres out, and when it was halted moved the ball right, then back left to find they had a simple overlap and an easy try.
Penrith came straight back. Ed Swale chased a ball into the home 22 and, under pressure, it was bundled into touch, giving the visitors an attacking lineout.
This was the start of a period of pressure during which the visitors were in the ascendancy. They went close to scoring following strong running from James Hogg and Adam Howe, plumping for a 5m scrum when awarded a penalty in the red zone. Mike Raine got over the line from No 8, but was adjudged to have run into one of his team-mates, so play was pulled back.
Penrith eventually levelled the scores when Raine won a lineout close to the line. They had a number of drives before Josh Dowson powered almost to the line, and then Howe finally barged over for the try.
The Winters Park men then had themselves to blame for a spell in their own 22 as they failed to take the restart cleanly. They defended well and then got back on the offensive after Raine broke blind and got away from a scrum in his own 22. He set winger Jon Fell away and then took a return pass to make it to the home 22. James Boustead made ground up the middle and the move ended with Dowson being held up over the line.
They then turned the screw and won a series of penalties on the home line. Stockport were lucky to have only one man yellow-carded as they continued to infringe. Penrith finally got the score their play deserved when Raine won another lineout close to the line and the pack got the push on their opponents, driving over the line with Tom Lindsay at the back of the maul to ground the ball for the try.
The first half dragged on as there had been a number of injuries, and Penrith could not hold out. In the eighth added minute Stockport levelled the scores in similar fashion to their first try — a driven lineout, a couple of phases and an overlap.
Early in the second period Penrith got themselves into an attacking position when Swale hacked a misplaced home pass into the Stockport 22 and they then won the lineout from the clearance to touch. It was not pretty as they drove in time after time, but it was effective and it was Matt Allinson who cleanly broke the defensive line 20 metres out and made the line. Wooff’s conversion gave them a seven-point lead, but they could not build on it.
They had a crazy five minutes when they conceded a yellow card, gave three penalties away one after the other and even backchatted to the referee for another 10 metres, which saw them go from attacking deep in the home 22 to defending their own line.
The home lineout drives were reasonably efficient and they again levelled the scores from a penalty kick to the corner and the attacking lineout.
Penrith came back hard at them and physically upped their game. They again got their noses in front, this time from a 5m scrum which the seven forwards remaining on the field won. Raine broke from No 8 and two drives later Allinson crashed over wide out. Crucially, the conversion went wide.
Penrith had a long-range penalty attempt to take the lead out to more than a score, but it drifted wide and the clock was winding down into added time.
The home side were on the attack and Penrith seemed to be holding them on the 22 line with no great problems when the scrum half threw a ridiculous dummy, which was bought, and he strolled over under the posts to level the scores once more. The conversion won the game.
It was mission accomplished for the Cumbrians, but not quite how they would have liked it. They survived — just. A look at the league table shows they can put their survival down to their ability to score four tries in a game which they did to earn a bonus point in 18 of the 26 played. If there were no bonus points Penrith would have been relegated.