Onwards and Upwards...
Manchester picked up where they had left off a fortnight ago when taking the impressive bonus point away win at Stockport. By the end of the game however, early promise had turned to frustration.
A first minute penalty from Doug Day, making his 150th First XV appearance, gave Manchester a 3-0 start. An exceptional long penalty kick to touch by Day them set up a good catch & drive from the lineout which was easily driven over. Day’s conversion made it 10-0 within five minutes and the result looked set fair already.
Although Manchester kept the pressure on, Carlisle defended well and were eventually able to escape their half. When a chance came to move the ball wide they did so effectively, leaving Manchester stretched out wide. A try was scored in the corner to halve the deficit to 10-5 with just eleven minutes played.
The next twenty minutes or so passed with little incident although Manchester had the best of the territory. With the drizzle getting worse and the penalty count rising against Manchester, the optimism of the first ten minutes had disappeared a little. To worsen the mood, Manchester lost a man at this point, presumably down to the cumulative penalties rather than a major misdemeanour, and Carlisle made the most of the situation. The resulting penalty brought the score back to 10-8.
The final score of the half was unfortunate with Manchester attacking with enterprise, despite being a centre down. Inside the Carlisle 22 the ball was then ripped in the tackle from the attacker’s grasp which set up an unexpected counter attack. Manchester did their best to get back but an overlap was created to allow a score under the posts. The conversion put the visitors 10-15 up at the break.
Once Manchester were back to their full complement it seemed probable that they would reassert themselves but it was Carlisle who started the half the better. Early on, a kick through was almost dabbed down but Manchester won the foot race for a reprieve. A telling score was made within ten minutes however when some slick passing by the visitors created a gap for a converted try to take the score to 10-22.
Manchester had lost their way since five minutes in when they last troubled the scoreboard and it was surprising therefore when a scrum was opted for rather than taking the points from an easy penalty for a deliberate knock on. With Carlisle now down on numbers following their inevitable yellow card with a player already in the bin, Manchester certainly had an opportunity to recover. This first opportunity to get on that road was rejected as Manchester calculated that two tries were needed rather than three points despite time being on their side.
Nonetheless, with quarter of an hour to go, Manchester were back within one score as Zak Round squeezed over in the corner to close the gap to 15-22. There was certainly time to take the win, a losing bonus point at home would still be considered a poor return after the early promise.
Carlisle were shrewd however so that Manchester were unable to cut loose and got drawn into more of an arm wrestle with their opponents rather than the flowing rugby that suits this side better. A couple of chances did appear but the first was spilled in sight of the line, the second was effectively defenDed as Harry Lewis was bundled into touch after combining well with Day and Round.
To rub salt in the wound, a late penalty was slotted by the visitors to deny even that “unwanted” losing bonus point, the 15-25 final scoreline being an unexpected but fair result for the visitors who, rightly or wrongly, appeared to want this win so much more.