A dismal performance in front of a big Silver Royd turn-out saw Scarborough slip to a 30-25 defeat against North Ribblesdale, their first home defeat in almost four months.
With only one win in 2013 the Seasiders struggled to bring shape to a fragmented performance and were undone by a committed Ribblesdale side which grafted throughout and just about deserved their first win of the year.
Ribblesdale had the upper hand in the early exchanges and Scarborough put themselves under pressure with poor ball retention; however when the visitors infringed at a scrum and Scarborough set up a catch and drive from the penalty, flanker Chris Purdy was driven over for the first try of the match. Centre Tom Ratcliffe pulled his conversion attempt but Scarborough were 5-0 up somewhat against the run of play after nine minutes.
The visitors turned the screw from the restart and dominated the set scrums where the home eight struggled. Scarborough conceded three consecutive penalties just outside their own 22 in the 11th, 13th and 20th minutes; visiting fullback Robbie Davidson shaved the upright with the first but made no mistake with the second and third and North Ribb led 6-5 with a quarter of the game gone. Flanker Sam Warren was sin-binned after the second infringement for hands in a ruck and referee Rob Staines had words with Scarborough skipper Phil Watson about his side’s repeated infringement in this area of the game.
The second quarter was tale of poor ball retention and handling from both sides and a scrappy and error-strewn twenty minutes concluded with an exchange of penalties between Ratcliffe and Davidson in the 37th and 40th minutes and ‘Ribb’ led 9-8 at the break.
Kicking off at the start of the second half Scarborough put together their best passage of play of the afternoon and scored within 30 second of the restart. The kick was gathered and moved right for Graeme Jeffrey to power up the touchline releasing prop Nino Cutino to blast through four defenders and burrow over to score. Ratcliffe added the extras for a 15-9 lead.
Ribblesdale’s cohesive forward pack began exerting pressure on the creaking home scrum who conceded a string of penalties to a point where they had to defend an attacking set scrum in their own 22; the visitors drove to the line; a defender kicked the ball out of the scrum and Mr Staines awarded a penalty try which fullback Davidson converted for a 16-15 Ribb lead in the 52nd minute.
The poor handling which had characterized Scarborough’s afternoon led to North Ribb’s next try which came on the hour; a spilled ball on the home ten metre line saw the visitors drive into the home 22 where flyhalf Steve Moon brushed aside some flimsy defence to score. Davidson added the extras for 23-15. Although they struggled, the commitment of the Scarborough eight was never in doubt and from a retreating attacking scrum 10 metres out, No8 Phil Austen drove off the base and Cutino was on his shoulder to power over in the 63rd minute. Ratcliffe reduced the arrears to a single point with his conversion at 23-22. Scarborough then lost the services of back row Purdy, their outstanding player and main source of line-out possession, with a knee injury.
Skipper Phil Watson’s men looked dangerous when Corey Dennis was in possession but too often the young wing ran down blind alleys and the threat fizzled out. Hooker Luke Raines once more was everywhere in the loose and was also a real threat. However it was the visiting pack calling the shots and a great scrum in front of the Scarborough posts looked as if it would bring the clinching score. However they were penalised and then moved 10 metres back for backchat to Mr Staines.
The clinching score was only delayed as a telegraphed looping pass from Tom Harrison in midfield was intercepted by Ribb centre Will Davidson who sprinted off and grounded between the uprights. Brother Robbie converted for 30-22 in the 75th minute.
Ribblesdale re-shuffled their front row and the home eight had the upper hand in the closing stages of the game. Scarborough laid siege to the visitors’ line and reduced the arrears to five points with a penalty from Ratcliffe with three minutes to go. Late pressure saw Luke Raines stopped inches short a minute from time. Surprisingly Scarborough opted to kick to touch with Purdy on the sidelines. The line-out was a mess and the game was over. Had they taken a quick penalty metres out there would have been no contest for possession with perhaps better odds on a successful outcome. However as I’ve said before, “it’s an easy game watching from the touchline.”
This was undoubtedly Scarborough’s poorest home performance of the season but surprisingly the squad for this game showed only four different faces from the side that beat Driffield 21-20 on the first day of the season and shows few changes from the squad involved in winning the opening three league matches playing with a dynamism that appears to have disappeared. I think the long-term injury to Ben Wilson has much to do with it; however Phil Watson and his men will have to rediscover it soon or, with a resurgence of the bottom clubs, they could have an uncomfortable end to the season.