Since the turn of the year Penrith's home game against Pocklington has looked pivotal to their season.
This was even more so following their defeat last time out at Morpeth.
It was make or break time for the home side and despite their best efforts they came up just short and had no complaint losing 13-6 to the better side.
The Cumbrians had any advantage there was to be had from the elements in their favour in the first half.
It was a blustery, very cold, February day and although the east wind was blowing mainly across the pitch it did assist the home side and they started well enough.
The referee was on exchange from Liverpool and came with a reputation as being young and upcoming and the game started with a spate of penalties as he imposed himself.
With Penrith having the better of early possession and being on the attack they were awarded two penalties in the first six minutes all within kicking range.
Both were missed but shortly after they won a third following a break by George Graham followed up by incisive running by Mike Raine and Dan Richardson. This time Matt Allinson made no mistake and Penrith had their noses in front
Pocklington then had a period in the ascendancy where they also missed a kick at goal and then had two line-outs on the Penrith line where they could not force their way over.
Penrith then won good line-out ball on the visitors’ 22 and drove for the line and were only halted by foul play.
They kicked the penalty to the corner but were unable to win two line-outs in succession and the chance went begging.
In a close game like this it comes down to mistakes and Pocklington's set plays were near perfect.
Penrith could not threaten their scrums or line-outs and they had a plentiful supply of ball whereas Penrith's set plays were hit and miss.
They won most of their set plays but nowhere near all of them. Against poorer sides you can get away with it but in a tight game at the top of the league it makes all the difference.
As the clock wound down on the first half it looked as if Penrith were only going to have the slimmest of leads but again as Graham strived to make his mark on the game he caused panic in the visitor's defensive ranks and Penrith had another penalty in the 22. Allinson's penalty kick was the last action of the first half and it went over to give the home side a six-point advantage at the break.
Penrith would be hopeful of a win in the half time huddle but the second half proved to be a completely different affair.
In the first half both sides had their moments but in the second half Pocklington laid siege to the Penrith line for almost the whole 40 minutes.
They dominated possession and the home side hardly made it out of their own half.
Penrith could be faulted for some of their play but certainly not their defending.
In the absence of both captain and vice- captain the side was led by Mike Stephens and they defended like you would expect a side led by the combative Stephens to defend.
In the away game earlier in the season they could have been accused of standing off them but not here.
The visitors were parked in the Penrith 22 from very early in the half. They kicked a penalty to the corner and an attempted catch and drive was thwarted by foul play from the home side and with a prop yellow carded.
The attacking side then opted for a scrum from the penalty against seven men. There was then a succession of five metre scrums as Penrith were penalised and the scrum was reset from the penalty.
The visitors even knocked on attempting the push-over try giving Penrith the put in to their own scrum but they were shunted off it and the put in reverted to the attacking side.
At the fifth attempt the Pocklington scrum edged towards the home line. It then looked to have wheeled through 90 degrees but the number eight broke off and after a scramble the ball was deemed to have been grounded. The conversion was from under the posts and it went over to give the visitors a one point lead.
Penrith strove to get back into the game but could not manage to match the close, tight, controlled rugby played by the opposition and they struggled with their intensity. Pocklington struck two penalties to go a score in front and what little ball Penrith did get they quickly gave up as they tried more and more desperately to run the ball from deep to get back into the game.
It is a measure of the defensive effort of the home side that despite their total dominance in the second half Pocklington could only cross the home line for one scruffy try.
It didn't help the Penrith cause that they ended up with three players off the pitch with injuries that would not allow them return to the field of play. They now face a trip to West Hartlepool where a further defeat would all but end their play-off hopes.
St. Benedict’s inched nearer to safety in North One West with an important 21-0 home win over West Park St. Helens.
After so many injuries so far this season, and having used over 40 players in the cause, Saints were desperate to record a win and they duly obliged.
The home side started well as their scrum looked solid, against a big West Park pack and they took the lead with a Kyle Hiddleston penalty.
At times Saints tried too hard, either pushing a pass too far or kicking away possession looking for a way through the Park defence.
They were, however, in control of the game and after applying more pressure West Park were penalised for not allowing the ball to come cleanly out of the ruck area. Hiddleston again obliged from 20 metres out to double the lead.
He should have made it 9-0 from his easiest kick to date but sliced wide of the target.
The home supporters had to wait until the 23rd minute for Saints’ first try of the afternoon. Good driving play by the Saints’ forwards saw the ball re-cycled and in the hands of Steve Wood, he dummied the defence and went over the line.
With the amount of ball Saints had they should have put more points on the board before West Park had a ten-minute spell where the home side had to defend their line.
Several time the visitors went close but the Saints defence held firm to turn round 11-0 to the good.
The second half saw Saints re-take control of the game with some hard drives by the forwards. When the St. Helens side were caught offside at the ruck Hiddleston slotted over his third penalty.
The home side’s second try, and the one which basically killed the game as a contest, saw the home forwards drive into the Park defence. A wrap round move, involving Steve Wood, worked a treat. A lovely flat ball from him saw Steven Nelson go in unopposed and Hiddleston added the conversion.
The pictures were taken at the Penrith v Pocklington game by DAVE NATTRASS and feature in descending order the imperious Dan Richardson collecting the ball at a line-out; Richardson again, this time stopped on his way to he line and Mike Raine putting in a charge at the Pocklington line.