Penrith would be disappointed with their last minute defeat at the hands of Vale of Lune on Saturday consigning them to sixth place in the league as opposed to the fourth place they looked like securing before their poor performance and defeat against Leigh the week before.
The afternoon couldn’t have started much better for them when they had a seven point lead as early as three minutes into the game, the forwards had kept driving the ball down the narrow side and made ground up the left to the 10m line in the visitor’s half, the ball then came right to the backs. Kris Bratton cut an angle from outside centre and took the ball off stand off Matt Allinson and broke clean through, his pace took him head on with the fullback who he stepped with some aplomb before going in under the posts.
Vale however looked dangerous with the ball in hand from the outset and with the strong wind at their backs soon had the home side under pressure. They kicked a penalty to the corner for a 5m attacking lineout and opened their account with a routine catch and drive. The conversion sailed across the face of the posts as the kicker failed to judge the wind as did a penalty shot shortly afterwards that would have given his side the lead.
As the first half progressed Vale looked the more likely to score, they were more confident and considered in possession and kept the ball for long periods whereas Penrith looked rushed and panicky though Allinson almost created an opening for Bratton with a neat chip over the onrushing Vale backs. Had the bounce been a little kinder he would have been clean through.
The visitors did take the lead and again it was from a penalty kicked to the corner for a 5m lineout. This time they did not not score from the lineout as Penrith were able to stop them just short with a last gasp tackle from Paul Newton right on the corner flag. They were awarded a 5m scrum and although they could not budge the home eight the scrum wheeled and the No8 broke off and the home defence hampered by the wheel couldn’t quite stop him, the conversion was better judged and sailed between the posts.
As the half drew to a close Penrith got their noses back in front, they won a four man lineout some 10m out and when the ball came into midfield Tama Toomata ran the ball up making yards almost to the line. When the ball was recycled and came to the backs Jon Fell came off the blindside wing, the Penrith centres held the cover and when the ball came wide to Fell the field opened up in front of him and he had the line at his mercy. He got over the try line and managed to get part way round to the posts to give Mike Fearon a better chance of the conversion into the wind. He struck the ball superbly and the ball bisected the posts.
Toomata took the restart kick in his own 22 and burst through the first wave of tacklers and made ground to halfway, he then released Harlan Corrie who in turn sent Bratton away. Bratton shot off up the touchline and chipped the ball into the 22 but was body-checked as he chased his kick. A penalty was given and Fearon fresh from his success with the conversion into the wind took this rather more difficult penalty on with the same result. Penrith turned around after 40 minutes 17-12 to the good with the wind at their backs in the second half.
They started the second half on the front foot, they kicked off to the visitors and as they tried to run the ball out of their 22, lead by Ryan Johnson, tackled like tigers and forced Vale to concede another penalty, Fearon with the wind at his back made easy work of it. Penrith were in the ascendancy and Allinson made a clean break on the 22 only to be stopped just short and again the visitors infringed. Rather than call up Fearon again Penrith opted for the scrum and although they pressured the Vale line they could not quite force home the advantage and looking back might have thought the penalty shot was the better option in a close game.
The strong wind then played against the home side, they were under a bit of pressure and cleared long only for the well struck punt to run dead over the deadball line an result in a scrum from where it was kicked. This was almost on the home 22 and from the scrum the visitors moved the ball well and a missed tackle wide out by the Penrith backline allowed the break that resulted in a try, the conversion into the wind was missed and the home side still held a three point lead.
They doubled the lead as the game went into the final quarter, Vale were penalised virtually on the centre spot and Fearon took on a penalty attempt a yard inside his own half, he struck it perfectly and it never looked like missing and cleared the bar and some.
As the game drew to a close it was the visitors who were finishing the stronger of the two sides and Penrith were hanging grimly on, they were having trouble containing the Vale backs and first up tackles were being missed. With ten minutes to go the visitors scored their fourth try to trail by just one point and the clock was ticking down.
A penalty for the visitors was kicked up the touchline as full time approached and wind held it up and it found touch ten yards outside the 22 and did not look too much of a threat, the Vale forwards however won the lineout and then drove the ensuing maul almost to the home line, the Penrith forwards eventually brought it to a halt and Vale looked to their backs as the ball came to the stand off. The home back line flew up in defence but the visiting stand off was calmness itself and stroked the drop goal over for the lead and the game.
The game was restarted but the home side could not get their hands on the ball to try and hit back and the final whistle saw them fall short by the smallest of margins. They now have a trip to Blackburn to complete the season but pride will be all that is at stake as their sixth place is guaranteed by the mathematics.