Scarborough went down to their first defeat of the season, losing 23-18 at Bridlington in perfect conditions at a sun-drenched Dukes Park but took great credit for a stirring fightback from an early 17-point deficit to almost snatch victory at the death.
A thunderous start with both sides colliding in midfield provided a real derby atmosphere and there were several heated exchanges in the opening encounters with no quarter asked or given.
However a lack of concentration as Scarborough moved the ball right to left in the Bridlington half saw visiting No8 Phil Austen’s pass intercepted by winger Billy Stirk who sprinted over half the length of the field to score between the uprights in the fifth minute. Scrum-half Simon Mellonby added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Bridlington dominated the first quarter and affected several turnovers giving them a chance to take the game to the visitors; however some excellent first-up Scarborough tackles restricted the home side to producing much of their best stuff behind the gain line.
Luke Raines was sin-binned for the visitors in the 12th minute for swinging a retaliatory haymaker which completely missed; however the men from Dukes Park couldn’t press home their numerical advantage.
Brid second row Waines joined the Scarborough man in the bin for a couple of minutes in the 20th minute when he pulled Chris Purdy down in mid air at a lineout. Within minutes of the prop’s return,
Bridlington were awarded a penalty try when Scarborough fullback Tom Harrison tackled a man off the ball with a try about to be scored and Mellonby converted for 14-0 in the 25th minute.
And the young scrum-half added to his tally with the boot four minutes later when Scarborough infringed and he kick the resulting long-distance penalty for a 17-0 Brid lead in the 29th minute.
Although they endeavoured to play a swift handling game, things went from bad to worse for the visitors when ‘Mr Reliable’ Tom Ratcliffe missed a penalty which would normally be meat and drink to the big Scarborough centre then put a penalty kick touch-in-goal when going for the corner to set up a possible catch and drive.
The half did end on a high note for skipper Phil Watson’s men when following some good work up the right flank, Graeme Jeffrey took on four men and had the strength to stretch out and score in the corner on the stroke of half-time. Ratcliffe missed the touchline conversion but Jeffrey’s effort had thrown his team-mates a lifeline and they turned round 12 points adrift.
The Seasiders held on to that lifeline after the break and began to get the upper hand at the breakdown where their fitness saw them starting to win the physical battle.
They were at time pedestrian in possession but through great work by the forwards the game was being played deep in home territory.
And when Bridlington did break the shackles they found their way barred by some crunching tackles one memorable one saw winger Corey Dennis flatten his opposite number Stirk in the 50th minute.
The visitors reduced the arrears in unlikely fashion in the 52nd minute when from what appeared to be a couple of Scarborough knock-ons, Ratcliffe pounced as the home defence hesitated and strolled in to touchdown between the uprights and added the conversion to reduce the arrears to five points at 17-12.
Bridlington stretched their lead to 20-12 in the 57th minute when Scarborough strayed offside just inside their own half and the unerring boot of Mellonby meted out the punishment.
Scarborough dominated the final quarter with their forwards looking stronger and fitter than the home eight but when they looked to move the ball wide some wrong options in the back line under pressure saw a series of great chances go begging.
Tom Harrison’s drop-goal in the 61st minute reduced the arrears to five points in the 61st minute before an exchange of penalties between Mellonby and Ratcliffe in the 62nd and 65th minutes respectively saw Bridlington lead 23-18 going into the last 10 minutes of the game.
The visitors laid siege to the home line in that last 10 minutes looking for a last gasp winning try but a combination of vigorous defence and a lack of composure contrived to see Bridlington hold on for the win.
This was by no means a poor Scarborough performance but a bit more concentration in the early stages and a more composed ending to the game could have produced a different result.
They looked to play attractive and effective rugby with backs and forwards combining and had the strength of character to bounce back from a disappointing first half where they were 17-0 down at one stage to turn in a stirring second-half show which almost earned them the points.
Standout performances in a great pack effort in the second half came from Phil Watson, Nino Cutino and flanker Chris Purdy while Jeffrey, Harrison, Dennis and scrum-half Zbyněk Schütz were pick of the backs.
One thing is for sure; every single Scarborough player walked off the paddock knowing he gave everything he could on the day.
Report by Dave Campbell