PENDLE found themselves going into the first league game of the season without any game time preparation with two friendly games cancelled and last week’s Lancashire Cup tie opponents withdrawn.
But they got up and running at the first attempt against Birchfield at Hodge House.
Pendle went into the fixture with a few absentees but were happy to have new signing Jake Hussein on the bench.
Birchfield started well, and Pendle’s rustiness was evident as strong running from the visitors quickly resulted in them finding space out wide for their winger to score in the corner.
However the conversion was missed and Pendle had to quickly regroup.
Pendle were looking for leaders and found them when Carl Wiseman stole ball from the opposition ruck, which was fed to Jonny Harper to break the Birchfield defence. James Redford managed to squeeze the ball in the corner, but was unable to add the extras and the score remained 5-5.
With Pendle feeling their way back into the game, a silly penalty allowed the Birchfield kicking machine to slot over from 30 metres out to put the visitors up 8-5.
This seemed to unsettle Pendle and sloppy play around the field resulted in them putting pressure on themselves. Birchfield were only too happy to take advantage and scored once more, this time in the opposite corner.
Again the Birchfield kicker placed another kick through the upright and stretched their lead to 15-5.
Pendle went back to basics, and when they were awarded a scrum 40 metres out, Ricardo Ferndizi, James Finucane and Nick Martin dominated the opposition. This allowed Pendle to get on the front foot and they were looking more dangerous with every attack.
It wasn’t long before Redford was able to free space up for Rob Lawless, who showed his pace and power to run the ball in under the sticks. Redford converted and Pendle reduced the arrears to 15-12.
Pendle decided to bring on fresh legs just before half-time when Paul McGladdery replaced Daniel Owen. Again this seemed to unsettle the rhythm and Birchfield were awarded another penalty which they kicked to extend their lead at half time to 18-12.
Pendle rang the changes at half-time and Stu Riley and Phil Perry were brought into the game.
Birchfield started the second half as they had begun the first. However, strong tackles from Luke McNamee, Dave Morris and Sonny Waddington kept them out, and when Birchfield frustration boiled over, Pendle were able to relieve pressure and camp down in the opposition half.
Pendle started to put the ball wide, and when Daniel Rowland, Rob Lawless and Sonny Waddington put the ball through the hands, Birchfield were looking stretched.
Liam Canning was put into space to hand off the Birchfield full back and raced clear to score under the posts.
Redford added the extras and Pendle found themselves in front for the first time in the game at 19-18.
Pendle were now looking more like the team from last year- a strong run from Stu Riley and excellent clearing out by Ferndizi and Finucane allowed Daniel Rowland to fire a quick ball to the backs.
Again Jonny Harper and Lawless found Canning out wide and he raced away to score under the post.
Redford however seemed to have a rush of blood and missed the conversion. Pendle were now only six points clear at 24-18.
Birchfield never quit and excellent tactical kicking from their full back always kept Pendle pegged back in their own half.
The pressure showed when Pendle were adjudged to have entered a ruck at the side, and the Birchfield kicker slotted a three-pointer.
Pendle needed inspiration and they got it from Carl Wiseman, Nick Martin and Jay Ashger with storming runs into the heart of the Birchfield defence.
With Pendle on the front foot, Redford and Harper kept Birchfield deep in their own territory. Strong defence from Ferndizi and McNamee forced Birchfield into giving away a penalty 35 metres out, and new captain Finucane called for a shot at goal. Redford stepped up and put Pendle six points clear again.
With ten minutes to go Pendle and Birchfield were reduced to 14 men as both scrum halves were sin binned.
This gave a chance to get Jake Hussein on for his first game in the red of Pendle, and he didn’t disappoint.
Pendle were able to see the rest of the game out for a deserved 27-21 victory.
Lawless was voted man of the match for his powerful and direct running.
You can also ring Ben Peverley on 07977992080.