St. Benedict’s will not start as cup final
underdogs, says Preston
PENRITH coach Dave Preston (pictured) believes today’s Cumbria Cup final opponents, St. Benedict’s, will not start the game as underdogs despite playing in a league below the Winters Park men.
The two go head-to-head at Keswick’s Davidson Park ground today (3pm), following the Cumbria 2 Shield League play-off final between Penrith III and St. Benedict’s II (1pm).
The Whitehaven side have finished third in the North Lancs./Cumbria League this season, compared to Penrith’s fourth in North One West, and Preston says their form has been more consistent than Penrith’s in recent seasons. They also beat Kendal who finished a place above Penrith in North One West in the cup semi-final.
“I don’t really feel as if Bennie’s are the underdogs. Their league and cup form in the last three seasons has been much more consistent then Penrith’s they have got to more finals and always been towards the top of their league,” he said.
“We are expecting a tough, physical encounter. They will set their stall out, especially early on, to impose themselves physically, but I think they will be in for a shock. This (Penrith) side has not taken a backward step all season and they will not start on Saturday.”
But he added: “St. Benedict’s are a good, solid, all-round side. They are a decent outfit who have played together for a lot of years and they are not to be underestimated!”
Former Penrith fly half and captain Steve Wood has played for St. Benedict’s his home club this season, but suffered a broken leg in March, while ex-Penrith full back Mike Hawley has also featured for the West Cumbrians.
Preston said: “Steve Wood and I are great mates and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is on the bench. We always have a bit of banter and there have already been a few phone calls we both want the bragging rights.
“Mike Hawley couldn’t commit to Penrith because he was giving up playing, but he has played a bit for Bennies, and although he claims to be injured, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him turn out! We know how dangerous he can be, but we also know his weaknesses.”
Preston added that although the Cumbria Cup has been “devalued” in recent years with teams dropping out and fielding weakened sides, this year it is “worth winning”.
“Penrith have always taken it seriously, year in year out, and have never fielded anything but a full strength side,” he said. “Coaches and players like winning things and there’s nothing better than the cup.”
Today’s final will be the last game in Penrith colours for Pale Tuilagi and Sanele Mtembu who are both heading home. Mtembu faced a fitness test last night after sustaining what looked to be a serious knee injury at Bolton on Saturday.
“He was walking on Tuesday night which was better than we expected so, hopefully, he will be OK,” said Preston. “He has been a real asset. He struggled with his fitness early on, but has worked hard and improved and gradually got better.
“And there will be no better send-off for Pale than a cup winner’s medal and he richly deserves it. During the year I have been here he has been a real asset both on and off the pitch. He has helped with coaching at all levels in the club and the junior teams have benefited enormously from his knowledge and experience.
“He is well respected throughout the club and everyone likes him. I will be sad to see him go.”
Back row Tama Toomata is available today after resting last week following a minor knock and similarly Darren Lee is also available after having a week off to rest a leg injury sustained against Wilmslow.
“Apart from doubts about Sanele we have a full squad to pick from,” said Preston.