Autumn tints shone from the trees as the teams took the field in this picturesque Underley Park setting, but leaving the beauty aside both teams were at the wrong end of the Northern Premiership table and needed a win.
Northwich kicked off towards the town, a steepling kick which was gathered safely and fed to skipper Ben Walker, playing at ten, for a clearance kick to touch but he was uncharacteristically a little slow getting the ball away. The kick was charged down and Northwich were over in the corner for a try inside the first minute of the game, the conversion was wide but it was just the start the visitors would have wanted and they led 0 - 5.
From the restart Kirkby began to apply pressure in the visitors twenty two and this led to a penalty which Walker slotted to put Kirkby on the board and reduce the deficit to 3 - 5 with ten minutes played. The home side were beginning to find a rhythm and putting together some good passages of play and from an attack the ball went to outside centre, James Coulton. He had plenty to do but a blistering, tackle breaking, jinking run took him and the last two defenders over the line, Walker converting the try to put his side ahead 10 - 5 at the end of the first quarter.
There were murmurings of content from spectators as Kirkby continued to turn the screw with slick handling and powerful running and this gave Coulton his second opportunity with another powerful run to the line. Walker again converting to extend the lead to 17 - 5 on the half hour, in the ten minutes to half time what looked like a good Kirkby try was called back for a knock on and the teams left the field with no further additions to the score.
The first twenty minutes of the second half were mainly for Kirkby but stubborn defence from Northwich prevented any score, although the pressure did result in a yellow card for the Northwich number four. As the game progressed the visitors were hanging on until opened up by a beautifully timed flat pass from Walker which put Coulton through a gap in midfield and it was a clear run to the posts for the centre's hat trick try. The conversion putting Kirkby in relatively clear water at 24 - 5.
The bonus point fourth try was engineered by right wing Harry Ralston with a run down the touchline and into the visitors twenty two, having drawn the cover he then well timed a pass inside to Walker who went in by the posts, the seven points making the score 31 - 5 at the end of the third quarter. Northwich did narrow the gap a little with an unconverted try for 31 - 10 but if anything this fired Kirkby up who ran riot in the last twenty minutes with four tries, two from flying winger Harry Huddleston and one apiece from prop George Oyston and the irrepressible number seven Stu Storey to end the match with the score at 53 - 10 and a morale boosting win for Kirkby Lonsdale.
On the day the half back pairing of Chris Park-Johnson at 9 and Walker at 10 was creative and penetrating and, beyond those mentioned, there were contributions all over the field noticeably a bullocking performance from Dan Helme at 12 punching holes, a welcome return from injury for James Fishwick at 6 and good contributions from the bench.
Spirits will be high in the camp which is just as well since there are two tough fixtures to come, next up away at league leaders Otley and then second placed Preston Grasshoppers at home.
Thanks to Tim Hancock for the great high res pics, how he keeps up with those guys whist carrying his camera nobody knows!