Birkenhead Park 29 Penrith 21
IT was celebration time at the Upper Park on Saturday as Birkenhead Park overcame the challenge of Penrith to win promotion back to National League Three following relegation from that division a year earlier.
It was an exciting occasion with a good crowd in attendance to witness an excellent contest between the two clubs in a winner takes all clash.
Penrith started the match in lively fashion as they laid siege to the home line but an excellent defensive effort kept the Cumbrians at bay and they had to settle for a penalty after seven minutes by Mike Fearon as reward for their early pressure.
A great run by Park skipper Jack Ashcroft took play deep into the Penrith 22 for the first time and the forwards then drove over for the opening try by hooker Stu Brown after 15 minutes.
Penrith recaptured the lead with a second Fearon penalty but after 32 minutes good work by prop James Millward paved the way for a second try by Brown from another driving maul.
Park were now playing with confidence and good running from Number 8 Dave Ibbotson and winger Adam Wellington made significant progress before the ball was moved wide for winger Matt Walls to claim the third home try.
Penrith rallied and after a tap penalty by scum half George Graham following a scrum offence second row Marlan Corrie went clear for Penrith's opening try which was converted by Fearon.
Then on the stroke of half-time Fearon kicked another penalty which put Penrith just one point behind at half time despite Park scoring three tries to one in the first half.
With the score so close it was a tense opening to the second half as the sides fought for supremacy, but it was Park who took the initiative with excellent work by Wellington and centre Gaz Coy who were a constant threat to the Penrith defence.
Fifteen minutes into the second half a multi phased attack sucked in the Penrith defence and quick hands put substitute winger Sam Tyrer over in the corner.
The missed conversion meant that Penrith were still within reach but it was Park who got the crucial next score.
Second row Laurence Thomas made a great run into the Penrith 22 and following a number of plays scrum-half Sam Chidley broke though to score under the posts and Dave Hall converted to put Park in command with just ten minutes to go.
The match was certainly not over and Penrith soon hit back with a try by number eight Dan Richardson.
Crucially, Fearon missed the easy conversion which meant that Penrith still needed two more scores in the closing stages.
Just three minutes before the end Park centre Billy Woof suffered a suspected broken leg and play was held up for 15 minutes before the match could be completed.
The nasty injury to Woof put a dampner on proceedings and Park Director of Rugby Martin O’Keefe said: "obviously everyone was upset by the injury to Billy but we were delighted with our win and promotion after a hard season.
"I thought the whole team stepped up to the mark today, we played with real passion and thoroughly deserved to win the match against a good side.
"It was probably our best display of the season bearing in mind the calibre of the opposition".