Scarborough RUFC’s first team suffered their third successive defeat on the road, losing out 30-23 in front of a sparse turn-out at North Ribblesdale’s Grove Park ground.
The Seasiders were under pressure in the early exchanges and were penalized for failing to release at the tackle. North Ribblesdale fly-half Steven Moon kicked the resulting penalty into the visitors’ 22 and the home side drove to the line from the catch-and-drive; Zbynec Schutz cleared for a short touch and from the lineout the ball was moved wide for wingman Will Davidson to scythe his way through a floundering defence to score in the sixth minute. Centre Simon Bolland added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
And Bolland had a chance to stretch the lead two minutes later when the visitors infringed but just pushed his penalty attempt wide.
Scarborough capitalised on that let off by running in a couple of tries in the space of two minutes; first a kick by fly-half Tom Harrison deep into the home 22 saw some great work by prop Nino Cutino set up centre Tom Ratcliffe who released winger Zbynec Schutz to power over in the 13th minute; Ratcliffe converted to level the scores at 7-7.
Two minutes later a powerful run by open-side flanker Ben Wilson into home territory saw a chip through fumbled by North ‘Ribb’ fullback Rob Hayes. The predatory Ratcliffe was on him like a flash, recovered the ball and galloped over for a trademark opportunist try. He did however pull his conversion attempt wide but Scarborough led 12-7.
A bullocking charge upfield by lock Charlie Hoggard took the visitors deep into home territory but turnover ball saw North Ribblesdale drive upfield and when a visiting player strayed offside in front of his own posts, Bolland kicked the penalty to reduce the arrears to three points in the 18th minute. Scarborough turned up the heat in a period of fast handling rugby and should really have scored when winger Corey Dennis dropped the ball.
North Ribblesdale came back strongly and put the visitors under pressure with some tight driving play and incisive running from South African centre Hugo Spires was striking at the heart of the Scarborough defence. And when the ball was moved wide from an attacking lineout he sprinted over to score on the half hour. Bolland added the conversion for 17-12. Ratcliffe chipped in with a penalty in the 34th minute for 17-15 and a breathless first half ended without further score.
Scarborough had ended the half on the attack and continued in the same vein after the break. However, under-pressure, Scarborough were penalized for coming in from the side and Bolland stretched the North Ribb lead to 20-15 in the 47th minute. There followed a twenty minute period where the game could have gone either way with both sides playing almost ‘Barbarian’ type rugby; Scarborough moving the ball at every opportunity with Schutz and Dennis in great form for skipper Phil Watson’s men.
It appeared that the next side to score would win the game and it was Scarborough who blinked first as home centre Spires cut through their defence to release Davidson for his second try of the game in the 65th minute. Bolland failed to convert and Ratcliffe struck back with a penalty for the visitors two minutes later following great work by Dennis.
Leading 25-18 North Ribblesdale looked to kill the game off and did just that in the 70th minute when Bolland waltzed through a flailing Scarborough defence to offload to wing Ben Mitchell for the clinching try at 30-18.
The closing ten minutes play was very much like the preceding seventy with both sides playing expansive handling rugby and Scarborough grabbed a late try and a losing bonus point when prop Luke Raines crashed over from short range.
I’m sure a neutral would have absolutely loved this exciting but error-strewn game in which both sides looked to play the brand of rugby that Scarborough coach Jason Lowde promised us at the start of the season.
However the aggression at the breakdown and in defence which characterised their early performances this season has waned and they were undone by an incisive home midfield. But it was great to see the team’s youngsters in action and Sam Warren, Matty Young, Jake Rollinson, Tommy Goodman and Corey Dennis did well on an exciting but ultimately disappointing afternoon.