Caldy 33, Winnington Park 17: THIS was a game Winnington did not want to play due to a series of injuries and unavailabilities that deprived them of their top front-row forwards.
Unfortunately, Caldy would not agree to a rearrangement of the fixture and rather than forfeit the points, Park called on stalwarts Jim Davies and Rick Jennings to fill the positions at prop, with veteran Tim Cross stepping in as hooker.
Park don't like losing to their rivals from the Wirral but they gifted Caldy, who are second in the league, the first opportunity to draw blood. A long kick from the Caldy stand-off found touch close to the Winnington line. Park's throw-in sailed over the lineout jumpers into the welcome hands of Caldy scrum-half Bennett, who darted over the line from close. Coates added the conversion and Park were adrift after only eight minutes.
Winnington's response was to raise their game and, for the next 20 minutes, they put the home side under pressure with some ferocious tackling and strong running.
Park were awarded two penalties but Ben Barton failed to hit the target, although his second kick bounced off the upright to be hastily cleared into touch. Winnington's persistence was rewarded after 27 minutes when Sam Barton gave the centre the time to plant a well-judged chip over the defensive line. The ball bounced invitingly for winger Johnny Evans to power through.
Caldy retook the lead when Coates landed a penalty on the half hour that he extended to six points some five minutes later. This was a double blow for Park who also had Carl Patterson yellow carded for a technical foul when Caldy were close to the Park line. In reply, Barton clawed back three points for Park to make the half-time score 13-10 in Caldy's favour.
Park again made a disappointing start to the half. A Barton penalty into the wind drifted wide and a quick clearance took Caldy deep into the Park half. This set up the Caldy right-winger McLaughlin, who sent Wood over. Coates converted for a 10-point cushion.
Park again responded in real style to score an exciting breakaway try. Ben Barton launched an attack from deep in his own half, he found support in Carl Patterson and the forward made a strong break upfield. He slipped the ball to Sam Barton who sprinted 20 metres to the line. Ben Barton converted and Park were again in contention at 20-17.
But Mark Patterson was caught infringing and was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes with Caldy gratefully accepting the three penalty points.
The fourteen men of Winnington continued to battle manfully with Caldy making little use of their extra man. No-one ran with more determination than Park's young full-back Simon Jennions, who has the composure and pace to make him a very exciting prospect.
However, instead of Winnington making the score that would have put everything back in the melting pot, and with five minutes remaining, it was Caldy who struck to secure the game. Firstly, stand-off Young dropped a goal and then Broadhurst made a fine break, cutting in from the left wing for a converted try to seal victory.
Park are next in action against Aspull on Saturday, April 3. Winnington's 2nds took on second-placed Caldy 2nds at Burrows Hill and lost a tight match with only one try in the game being scored.