KESWICK had previously proved to be Saints’ toughest opponents so far this season.

The gritty Lakelanders had come within four points of the league-leaders in the away match at Davidson Park in October and have been the only team to deny Saints a bonus-point win.

Apart from Anselmians and Rochdale, Saints’ closest challengers, they had the best defensive record in the league.

So, a tough contest was anticipated but hopes were high that there would be a back-lash from the home team in response to the shock that Keswick had given us in Cumbria.

On a brisk, blustery, sunny day at Malone Field, Saints got off to a good start with Fred Clark thundered over between the posts from the first concerted attack of the afternoon.

Clark had secured his starting role after a great performance from the bench, last week, away at Warrington.

The simple conversion was added by Dai Morley.

Wirral Globe:

Dai Morley scores. Picture: Derek Salisbury Snr

Saints remained ascendant playing with the sun at their backs and from a skilful kick ahead by skipper, Liam Sadler, James Whitehouse collected the bouncing ball, which had eluded the defence, with the sun in their eyes, to cross near the posts with Morley adding the extra conversion points.

Fourteen minutes into the game, the score was 14-0.

This season, the Saints’ line-out has been the most improved facet of their performances, and it was from a line-out in their opponents 22 which developed into a well-controlled maul and from which Ewan Nolan scored after 23 minutes.

Wirral Globe:

Ewan Nolan scores. Picture: Derek Salisbury Snr

Immediately from the restart, a tussle in the front row (where else?), led to a 10-minute rest for hooker, Danny Salisbury.

And, then, just a couple of minutes later, elder brother, Derek, was dismissed after the Yorkshire referee considered that the hugely experienced tight-head wasn’t propping legally and issued a yellow card, followed by another after the prop objected, and an automatic red.

Wirral Globe:

Derek Salisbury. Picture: Derek Salisbury Snr

So now Saints backs were against the wall with just 13 players against a strong Keswick rebound. But Saints were up to the task and defended magnificently to see out the half unscathed.

Half-time: 19-0

From the restart, rather than hunker down to defend their half-time lead, the Anselmians 14s response to adversity was to launch an all-out attack. The backs prodded and probed with strong incursions, particularly by James Otutaha and Tommy Banks, and worked an opening for classy full-back, Andy Cummings to score his first of a brace of tries after just four minutes.

Wirral Globe:

Andy Cummings scores.Picture: Derek Salisbury Snr

The seven remaining forwards also battled manfully, driving hard into a strong Keswick defence with Craig Jones emerging forcefully from one maul beneath the posts on 65 minutes to conclude an impressive passage of play, and with Morley adding the extras, the score at 31-0 was now slipping away from Keswick’s reach.

Finishing off another Saints' attack just six minutes later an inch-perfect cross kick by Morley fell straight into Cummings’ stride, wide on the left, for him to cross unopposed for his second try of the afternoon.

Not finished yet, Saints impressive thrusting, and slick, offloading progress, left the Keswick defence threadbare for Morley to flash in, in between the posts.

It was from such another attack that a 50-metre phase of accurate inter-passing, close offloads and support that Second-Rower, Niall Cavanagh, was on the end of the move that saw him cross under the posts, with Morley adding two points to bring up the 50 on 79 minutes.

From the restart, a maul developed into a brawl of swinging handbags. The full-time whistle ended the game but the referee decided that it was appropriate to red card a token player from each side. An unfortunate end to an otherwise enthralling contest.

Full-time: 50 - 0

It is unusual for a dominant side to concede more penalties than their opponents. Yesterday, the penalty count was 17-8 in Keswick’s favour.

Saints now march on to the re-arranged home game against Bolton next Saturday and should be highly favoured to add another five points against a team struggling towards the bottom of the division.

But we must travel to Rochdale in a fortnight for the toughest test of the season. Second-placed Rochdale have only been beaten once, by us at Malone Field, early in the season.