Birkenhead Park 18, Carlisle 27

BIRKENHEAD Park welcomed league leaders Carlisle to the Upper Park and put up a terrific fight before the visitors made the game safe with a late try.

After the debacle at Broughton Park the previous week Park needed to improve and they certainly did that but in the end had nothing to show for their efforts.

Park opened brightly, but after a missed penalty attempt by Matt Gilham it was Carlisle who opened the scoring with a Grant Connon penalty.

Carlisle began to put the pressure on, but outstanding Park defence kept them at bay until eventually an overlap was created for winger Jon Crichton.

Park came storming back and the recalled veteran Martin O'Keefe drove powerfully for a try to open the home account.

Connon increase the lead with his second penalty, but despite Park losing the influential Ollie Mabbott and Sam Chidley with head injuries and having two players in the sin bin there was no further scoring in the first half.

It was Park who started the second half in style with flanker Sean Mooney diving over for the try with Dave Hall converting to put Park just three points adrift at 12-15.

Park continued to battle well despite being under pressure in the scrum and when Stuart Brown was sent to the sin bin Carlisle took advantage with prop John Short scoring after a driving maul.

From the restart a great tackle by lock Laurence Thomas led to a penalty and Dave Hall made no mistake to keep Park in striking distance.

Carlisle began to dominate possession but Park absorbed the Cumbrian attacks and when Hall kicked another penalty five minutes before time home hopes of a surprise victory were raised.

However a solo try by the impressive Connon put paid to these hopes and deprived Park of the bonus point too.

Director of Rugby Martin O'Keefe said: "this was a much improved performance and it was disappointing to have no return from the match.

"We have three important matches before Christmas and need to start picking up points.

"The league is so tight that we have gone from being in striking distance of the top to within a few point of the relegation zone in two weeks."

This Saturday Park make the short trip down the M53 for the local derby at Anselmians, which is the first ever league match between the clubs.

Kick off is 2.15pm at the Vauxhall Riveacre Road ground.