Leaders Windermere Warriors suffered just their second defeat of the season, as they were narrowly beaten 14-12 by Leyland in the RFU Women’s NC Lancashire Merit League last Sunday.

Due to waterlogged pitches at Leyland, the home side switched the venue to Bolton RUFC, but conditions weren’t much better, with a strong wind blowing diagonally across the pitch on what was a bitterly cold day.

Leyland, who possessed a much larger pack, kicked off with that wind at their backs and pressure on the Windermere line led to the hosts taking the lead through a converted try inside two minutes.

The Warriors fought hard to get themselves going, with Lucy Branthwaite chipping through and leading a strong chase from her fellow three-quarters, but Leyland’s defence held firm.

Both teams were making handling errors in the freezing and windy conditions and it was from a breakdown in the Windermere half that led to Leyland’s openside flanker picking up and running clear to score the hosts’ second try.

The conversion took the score to 14-0 at half-time and the Warriors were frustrated in their attempts to get themselves back in the picture early in the second half by some more strong home defence.

They finally find a way through when Francheska Horsborough set off on a hallmark sweeping run around the outside, bursting through to score in the corner.

With the big Leyland pack now tiring, the Windermere scrum started to dominate and, led by Mhairi Callingham, were pushing Leyland off their own ball.

If it were not for some heroic on-the-line tackling by Leyland, the Windermere forwards would have come away with a few scoring opportunities with more points.

But Branthwaite set up a tense finish by chipping through after a quickly-taken penalty and followed up at speed to gather and cross the try line next to the posts, making the conversion an easy one.

With the gap down to two points, the last ten minutes were played mostly in the Leyland 22, but the hosts held on at the death by forcing the Warriors into touch at the corner.

Windermere, who lead the table by five points, have the chance to bounce back at second-placed Colne & Nelson on Sunday.