Keswick and Cockermouth proved to be two well-matched sides when they locked horns in the opening North Two West fixture at Davidson Park.
The second team game the night before had produced a runaway win for Keswick at Cockermouth but this was much tighter as the hosts completed the club double at 16-7.
Cockermouth made a great start, going ahead after only two minutes following two quick penalties against the home side.
Tackling the jumper in the air was followed by an award for not rolling away, giving the visitors a line out on the Keswick five metre line. The Cockermouth forwards caught and drove, scoring on their left and adding the conversion.
Taking some time to settle, Keswick gave away five penalties, all for different offences, in the first seven minutes before gaining their own first penalty whilst attacking out of defence on the 22.
Giving away far too many penalties could have cost Keswick, but on one occasion it was a loose final pass that prevented Cockermouth from reaching the try line.
The first scrum saw Keswick in the ascendancy, pushing Cockermouth back and winning a penalty. They took advantage of that superiority, to make ground and start turning the pressure onto the visitors.
Another scrum penalty, on the visitors’ 10 metre line, centre field, saw an excellent kick by Billy Thompson on 18 minutes to reduce the arrears although the first quarter definitely belonged to the visitors.
An altercation saw a Cockermouth player yellow carded, followed a couple of minutes later by one for a Keswick player for a high tackle. The attempted kick at goal went wide and Keswick dropped out on the 22.
Whilst the scrum was going Keswick’s way, the line-out was proving problematical, with the ball being tapped back and finding the ground rather than the scrum half, an error the Cockermouth pack was quick to take advantage of.
A frenetic first half saw a final attack by Cockermouth ending with a pass to touch rather than the supporting player and a reply by Keswick ending with a knock forward so it was still 3-7 at the break.
The wind picked up slightly in the second half, catching Cockermouth out when what would have been an excellent kick deep into the Keswick 22 was caught by the wind and went beyond the dead ball line.
It meant a scrum to Keswick inside the visitors’ 22 where a good run with the chance of an overlap was thwarted by a one-hand attempted interception that earned the offender a yellow card.
Keswick were unable to take advantage of their e tra man until within a minute of his return. Cockermouth seemed to lose a bit of direction, giving away a penalty just outside their 22 on 51 minutes, converted by Thompson to reduce the deficit to a single point.
That seemed to give Keswick extra lift as they retained possession for longer periods, but still lost it through handling errors.
More attacks followed through the Keswick backs with Ryan Weir almost reaching the line on the left on 60 minutes before knocking on.
Keswick took the scrum against the head, ran the ball right before coming back left, with George Holme passing to Harry Vaillant before a final pass to Weir saw him outpace the opposition to score in the corner. The conversion fell short and Keswick were leading for the first time, 11-7 on 64 minutes.
A scrum restart on the Cockermouth 22 following an injury stoppage saw the ball passed out to Weir who, despite being tackled, stepped back inside and reached the line on the right on 73 minutes. The attempted conversion came back off the left hand upright but at 16-7 Keswick were in the driving seat.
Cockermouth put in big effort to get back into the contest and were within seven metres of the Keswick line before going off their feet for a penalty that allowed Keswick to clear.
The final attacking move of the game produced an excellent cross-field kick to Vaillant who crossed to touch down but was adjudged to have been offside and play was brought back.
Cockermouth were unable to benefit and the whistle ended a closely fought and exciting contest.