Carlisle Centurians Vs Lancaster 4th May 2003
The view from Lancaster
Lancaster's new rugby league team made an heroic start to their first season going down 56 points to 6 against Cumbrian favourites Carlisle Centurions, a team which consisted of seven players with professional rugby league experience. Led both on and off the pitch by former Workington Town coach Gary Murdock, and supported by former Town professionals, Craig and Martin Stalker, the experience of the Centurions was clear to see on the first day of the new season at Gillford Park, home of the earlier professional club of the 1980s and 90s.
With a Craig Stalker try after just six minutes, the game was going to belong to the Cumbrians, who ran in a total of 12 tries, although considering the gulf in experience Lancaster fought well until the end with some superb defending and great leadership on the pitch by captain Rob Shaw. After appointing coach Kevin McGuffog from Lancaster and Morecambe College earlier this week, it was clear that despite having a lot to work on, that their was a great deal of potential in the new side, whose average age on Sunday was just 22.
Lancaster's best period was in the first half, with the team dominating the game for fifteen minutes, and the influence of winger Simon Ledwick helping to prevent Carlisle increasing the gap. A superb chase and tackle from Ledwick helped give Lancaster the ball and led shortly afterwards to the newcomers only try of the match by hooker Keith Hartlebury, who broke through Carlisle's defences to touch down the first points for a Lancaster team in almost a century. The try was easily converted by Kirk Verity to make the score 12 - 6 to the Cumbrians.
However further tries by Carlisle winger Sharpley, Martin Stalker and
The second half was dominated by Carlisle and the leadership displayed by player-coach Gary Murdock, the former Workington Town professional. Murdock's influence both on and off the pitch was a great boost to the Centurions and their supporters, but didn't dishearten a courageous Lancaster side who fought well until the end, preventing three tries in the final minutes with a strong defence.
The View from Carlisle
FORMER Workington Town professionals Craig and Martin Stalker led from the front as the Centurions made an impressive start to life in the North West Conference.
The twins spelled double trouble for outclassed Lancaster, each contributing 16 points in front of an encouraging launch-day crowd of around 200 at Gillford Park.
The Centurions, hastily assembled by ex-Town coach Gary Murdock, played some attractive, free-flowing rugby to delight chairman Bev Risman, who was an international in both rugby codes.
He said: "The team produced some excellent rugby, especially when you consider this was the first time they had played together.
"We are going into the unknown in many respects because, like ourselves, four of the other five teams in the league are newly created, but this win should give everyone confidence that we can do well."
The Centurions ran in 12 tries - six in each half - through Craig Stalker (4), Martin Stalker (2), Richard Massey, Tony Palmer, Spencer Sharpley, Jamie Moore, Barry Murdock and Ross Stewart. Martin Stalker kicked four goals.
A club that aims one day to surpass the achievements of the defunct Carlisle Raiders professional club, which folded six years ago, made the perfect start when full-back Craig Stalker rounded off a good move to dive over in the corner on six minutes.
Powerful prop Richard Nicholson's break and offload set up centre Massey for the second try while centre Martin Stalker and winger Steven Cook had touchdowns disallowed before substitute Tony Palmer stretched the lead to 12-0 on 23 minutes.
Lancaster hit back when hooker Keith Hartlebury pounced on a grubber to score, with scrum-half Carl Verity adding the extras, but further tries by winger Sharpley, Martin Stalker and loose forward Moore gave Centurions a 24-6 interval lead.
Five minutes after the break, Craig Stalker showed his power by brushing aside a prop forward's challenge and romping over from 40 yards.
He had a try disallowed before he completed his hat-trick and, in a late burst, there were further touchdowns from the twins, substitute Barry Murdock and centre Stewart, a Watsonians rugby union player.
Scrum-half Gary Murdock directed most of Carlisle's best moves with his incisive passing and there were impressive forward performances from Moore and prop James Mackay.
Phil Ferguson, Wes Fish, Russel Birkett, James Pierce, Kirk Verity, Si Ledwick, George Downie, Ben Burns
What the fans thought...
Carlisle made an expected strong start to their conference
life with this comfortable victory over a game Lancaster. Fielding a team
with plenty of Cumberland A.R.L. experience, Carlisle ran in 12 tries,
but only converted 4.
The lads in question:
I thought it was a fantastic effort from the Lancaster lads. I'm a Town fan and counted SEVEN ex pros in the Carlisle 17 (the 2 Murdoch's, the 2 Stalker's, Semple, McGee, Mackay) as well as some prominent guys from the CARL.
To be fair, Carlisle will win most of their games by a similar margin and will make a significant impact in next years NL3 if they get in.