CS Armentieres 26 Birkenhead Park 43

BIRKENHEAD Park visited northern France and Belgium to pay tribute to the 75 club members who died in the First World War and to play a match against French side Armentieres.

The tour party visited the graves of Harry Alexander and Toggie Kendall both former Park and England captains to pay their respects.

They also went to a battle site near Ypres where eight Park members died in one day, all from the Liverpool Scottish battalion.

A memorial wreath was laid at the Menim Gate on behalf of the club by front row forward James Millward following the last post service on the eve of the match.

Park found themselves up against a strong Armentieres side but after a close first half they pulled clear for a memorable victory.

The team was captained by prop Gareth Jones in the absence of club skipper Jack Ashcroft who was injured in training.

Jones said: “it was a privilege to lead the team out particularly after the visits we had made to the war graves and the lads certainly were up for the match against our French opponents.”

After a hard-fought opening Park broke the deadlock after 18 minutes with a well taken try by centre Tom Dempsey after the pack won quick ball with Dave Hall converting.

Park did well in the line outs securing plenty of possession through Josh Smith and Sean Mooney but Armentieres quickly equalised when Gregoire Dumetez took advantage of a defensive mix up to score the try converted by Thomas Guillaune.

The home side then took the lead when Jordan Alsberg scored after a driving maul with Guillaune again converting.

Stand-off Charlie Dewey enjoyed an excellent first half with some fine tactical kicking and he dropped a goal to reduce the home lead.

Shortly before half-time good work by Adam Wellington paved the way for hooker Danny Atherton to claim the second Park try with Hall’s conversion putting Park 17-14 ahead at the break.

Park moved further ahead when replacement winger Dave Tsang used his pace to good effect for a long range try improved by Hall but the French side responded with Clerment touching down and Guillaune adding the extras.

With the veteran Terry Hall adding his experience to proceedings Park eventually wore down the opposition in hot conditions.

It was the excellent Sean Mooney who made the game secure with two tries one from a driving maul and the second as he broke away from a forward melee.

French prop Le Clerc managed a final home try but it was colt Ryan McGeah who had the last say as he raced away for the final Park score with Hall hitting his fifth conversion.

Park’s director of rugby Martin O’Keefe said: “The tour was a great success and it was very poignant to visit the sites where so many Park members paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“We had to play well to win the match against a good side and I was proud of the effort we put in.”