Birkenhead Park 25, Kirkby Lonsdale 35

BIRKENHEAD Park and Kirkby Lonsdale laid on a great contest for a healthy crowd at the Upper Park in the North One West top of the table clash.

The Cumbrians took a huge step towards the league title as they eventually wore down a resilient Park side.

Park were boosted by the return of long term absentees hooker Stu Brown and centre Danny Rich.

The first half was a high-tempo affair and Park threw down the gauntlet to the league leaders with a third minute try from winger Sam Tyrer who touched down in the corner following a kick ahead by Simon Mason.

Kirkby responded with stand off Barton proving a real handful and full back Terry kicked a penalty to open the visitor's account.

After 14 minutes Kirkby claimed their first try following sustained pressure with prop forward Rowse driving over the line for the score with Terry adding the extras.

Simon Mason kicked a long range penalty but then Barton intercepted a Park pass and went clear from the ten-metre line to score a second try for Kirkby.

Martin O'Keefe replaced injured prop Pete Doolan early in the match and he made his presence felt with some characteristic driving play.

It was O'Keefe who stormed over under the posts for the next try and Mason’s conversion levelled matters 15 all at half-time.

Park had a great start to the second half and following good work by Brown the ball was moved wide and winger Sam Bryan dived over in the corner to put Birkenhead in the lead.

Kirkby then began to dominate and when Rich was sent to the sin bin the visitors took full advantage with two tries.

Centre Ralston went clear after another interception and he added a second two minutes later when Park lost possession and Kirkby exploited the overlap situation.

A third interception led to a try by flanker Storey on 72 by minutes which sealed Park’s fate but they had the consolation of a bonus point after Danny Rich broke through for the final try in the final minute.

Park's director of rugby, Martin O’Keeefe, said: "I was pleased that we gave a much improved performance and it was an excellent match.

"Kirkby Lonsdale deservedly won but we didn't help ourselves by giving them three interception tries.

"We will now concentrate on securing second place and hopefully a home play off for promotion."

Park are at home again this week when relegation battlers Rochdale are the visitors for a 2.15pm kick off in the Upper Park.

Peter Greville Press Officer Birkenhead Park 0