Warrington 26 Birkenhead Park 37
WARRINGTON ended their first incursion into North One West in the same way that they began it – with a loss to Birkenhead Park.
However, the successful season has seen them finish seventh in the league, their highest position ever in the English Rugby Union league system, and if they had managed to claim one of the three tries which went begging, they could have gained the bonus point which would have lifted them above Broughton Park into sixth.
The visitors received a warm welcome to Walton Lea Road when Pat Roberts knocked over a penalty with one minute on the clock.
The lead could have been extended virtually from the restart but stand-off Andy Roberts was dispossessed on the line.
But when Warrington forced a five yard scrum, following hustling pressure from colt Cam Lewis, Ashley Rockey picked up from the base and Zak Lythgoe first dummied and then used his bulk to power over.
Park’s reaction to the score was to create an ugly fracas but matters were calmed by the previously-hidden diplomatic talents of Tom Wood.
Park then channelled their aggression into rugby and their pack rumbled over for a try which was converted.
The visitors’ backs then went through the paces to construct a good try and take the lead and the sides exchanged penalties before Park were awarded a penalty try under the posts.
Andy Roberts cut the deficit with his third penalty and the sides turned round with Park enjoying a 22-14 lead.
The Park forwards, led by their impressive number eight, who was sportingly voted man-of-the-match by the Warrington team, continued to dominate in the second half, with good straight running in the loose and powerful scrimmaging.
This pressure eventually saw them score their fourth dry through a driving maul, after Warrington had been reduced to 14 men.
Warrington had a clear chance to score when they created an overlap but the cold hands of Jake Ashall, fresh from the bench, caused him to spill the ball with the line at his mercy.
The visitors now started to exploit both their plethora of possession and their numerical superiority and scored another backs’ try.
Warrington’s spirit kept them in the game and they were rewarded when Zak Lythgoe took a quick tap penalty and Cam Lewis did what he does well and touched down in the corner.
Park replied once again with another try in the corner but Warrington had the last word when a rare incursion into Park territory saw them use another quick tap penalty to all player/coach Andy Roberts to touch down. Pat Roberts added the conversion but the game was already over.
“Perhaps we weren’t at our best today, while Park were on top form,” said skipper Duncan Rickard.
“However, we have had an excellent season and I am very pleased by the way the squad, and club, have responded to the inspiring coaching of Darren Abram and Andy Roberts.
“It took us a few matches to adjust to the speed and intensity of North One West and who knows what could have happened if we had not lost our first four matches.”