St Benedicts 20 Wilmslow Wolves 13

WILMSLOW Wolves’ hopes of a third-place finish in North One West were dealt a severe blow in Whitehaven on Saturday.

With unbeaten runaway league leaders Kirkby Lonsdale in town this Saturday for the season’s penultimate game, the six-point gap to Northwich, who visit struggling Leigh, looks beyond them.

Wilmslow, five wins better off than the next best side Warrington, can take some credit for their top-four challenge throughout the season – though performances were better before Christmas.

Since the victory over Vale of Lune in January, the team have not fired on all cylinders.

Three close wins against Rochdale, Warrington and Burnage have been followed by two close losses.

The latest, against a Cumbrian side defeated 125-0 by second-placed Birkenhead Park a week earlier, proved to be a challenging affair.

Not long after setting off north on Saturday morning a phone call from the host club indicated the game was off due to a waterlogged pitch.

But there was contradictory information, leading to a decision that the game would be going ahead.

Wolves arrived in Whitehaven to find a small pitch, with grass not having been cut since October and the lines not marked out.

Once the game started it was clear the pitch suited St Benedicts, who welcomed the return of three of their best players and were fired up.

They were the first to the breakdown and were diligent in their defence.

The referee was extremely pernickety regarding offside and Wilmslow were the main culprits as they went 3-0 behind.

For a while, Wilmslow got their act together and from a lineout near the opposition line Max Harvey scored between the posts with Bob MacCallum converting and soon adding a penalty.

From some loose play, St Benedicts were rewarded for their pressing when they responded out wide to turn around 10-10.

The second half was no better from Wilmslow.

If it had not been for the hard graft of Alex Taylor and Max Harvey the score would have been much worse.

The Cumbrians’ choice of Wilmslow’s man of the match was Harvey and he was awarded a litre glass of beer for his efforts.

It is an even tougher challenge facing Wolves this Saturday and then they will end the campaign at basement team Eccles on April 22.