Before a bumper crowd with World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont officially opening Kendal’s superb new venue, Preston Grasshoppers spoilt the hosts’ party by coming away with an important, hard-fought 25-19 win.
Kendal had much the best of the first 20 minutes but had to settle for two penalties for their efforts.
Hoppers then began to get their game together.
With a set scrum turnover and strong carry from Sam Gale, Hoppers turned up the pressure with several drives for the line and only some careless hands let them down.
Then a change of tactics bore fruit as Will Hunt’s pinpoint cross-kick was taken on the full by Scott Jordan who went in at the corner to reduce the deficit to just one point.
From the kick-off, full-back, Chris Park took advantage of another Hoppers’ indiscretion to land his third penalty to put his side 9-5 up at the break.
At the restart, Hunt kicked a penalty but this was soon cancelled out as offside at the ruck resulted in another three points for kicker Park.
Coach Paul Arnold joined the fray, Hoppers’ pack continuing to dominate and from a lineout deep in the hosts’ 22, Chris Roddy’s drive was finished off by birthday boy Ally Murray putting his side ahead for the first time at 13-12.
Hoppers’ Jack Akrigg’s try was disallowed for a foot in touch,but a quick tap-penalty saw Matt Lamprey cross and this time Hunt added the points and, growing in confidence, some good hands and positive running put Niall Crosley in at the corner.
Kendal mounted a final attack and at last pierced the defence with a lineout drive and Park’s kick secured a losing bonus point.
And despite an injury to scrum-half Jake Squirrel, Hoppers were able to wind the clock down.
Arnold said: “I’m very happy with today’s five points.
“Kendal were obviously up for it and we had to absorb some early pressure and made it hard for ourselves with some errors but our defence held out.
“In the second half, we played with real composure and showed our resilience playing as a team – the camaraderie is excellent.
“We picked up a couple of injuries but the depth in the squad is good.”