Scarborough recorded their first win, a 13-0 success, against local rivals Bridlington in a game at Silver Royd since the complex opened in January 2009, thanks to a rock solid defensive display in bitterly cold conditions in front of their biggest crowd of the season.
Bridlington had the best of the early exchanges playing into a stiff south-easterly wind; following a penalty and an attacking line-out they drove to the home line only to be repulsed by a smothering blanket defence and when the ball was mauled from the visiting forwards, Scarborough centre Tom Ratcliffe cleared to halfway with his relieving kick.
Craig Farrell at centre for the Seasiders started as he meant to go on with some line-breaking penetrative runs at the heart of the visiting defence; he was aided and abetted by his fellow centre Ratcliffe whose pick-up off his toes in midfield and slick release of fullback Corey Dennis took his side deep into Bridlington territory. Scarborough were awarded a penalty when the visitors infringed and they went for touch and an intended catch-and-drive; the move broke down but they were awarded a penalty for offside in front of the posts and Ratcliffe obliged to nudge his side ahead 3-0 ahead in the 15th minute.
Bridlington should have been back on level terms five minutes later when Scarborough were penalized at a scrum just inside their 22 but scrum-half Stevie Mellonby missed with the kick in front of the posts. Scarborough looked to run the ball pretty much every time they gained possession but cold hands resulted in a plethora of handling errors; however when the visitors infringed under pressure on their own 22, Ratcliffe kicked his second penalty of the afternoon to extend the lead to 6-0 in the 32nd minute. Scrum-half Zbynec Schutz was desperately unlucky in the dying minutes of the half, when his deft chip ahead down Scarborough’s left flank beat the cover defence but evaded his outstretched fingers with the line begging.
Leading 6-0 at half-time, Scarborough continued to dominate the midfield exchanges after the break and pressured the visitors particularly at the breakdown where Farrell, Prop Nino Cutino and hooker Luke Raines were particularly abrasive. And when Ratcliffe spotted a gap on the visitors’ ten metre line and powered through it, Corey Dennis was on his shoulder to make the hard yards to the line in the 45th minute. Ratcliffe added the extras for a 13-0 lead.
Skipper Phil Watson was having his best game in a Scarborough jersey and his powerful running at the heart of the visiting defence was creating space for his teammates, however a lack of composure and an outbreak of white line fever, prevented them from scoring the tries that would have comfortably sealed the game. They had the chance to stretch their lead to two scores on the hour when the visitors were penalized mid-way in their own half; ill-disciplined back-chat saw them marched back towards their own line twice and into Ratcliffe’s kicking range by referee Andrew Scott. However the big centre pulled his penalty attempt across the face of the posts due to the effects of a capricious gust of wind as he took the kick.
Bridlington laid siege to the Scarborough line in the closing stages of the match but were constantly repulsed by magnificent defence with every man-jack of the home side putting his body on the line. The Seasiders’ back row of Chris Purdy, Sam Warren and Phil Austen pulled out all the stops and Farrell organized the defence with military precision: one bone-crunching, try-saving tackle by wing Matty Young on his Bridlington opposite number Regan Stirk will stay in the memory.
Scarborough completed the game and the successful defence of their line with 14 men as Austen was sin-binned with eight minutes to go but they held on for their well-deserved success much to the jubilation of their supporters who had waited almost four years for this win.
The game was anything but a classic but in the context of the local derby situation it was acompelling. The fact that their lineout functioned as it should for the first time this season was a key factor in Scarborough’s win, as was their performance at the set scrum where they pretty much dominated. Phil Watson had a huge game as did Craig Farrell who ran the show and organised a solid Scarborough defensive line throughout.
Had the Seasiders just shown a little more patience and composure in attack particularly for periods in the second half, more tries would surely have come and perhaps a bonus point.
Bridlington as was expected never gave an inch and stuck to their task to the very end but on the day they lacked the ideas and application to break down the home defence. Their talismanic fly-half Jamie Muru, a man who in the past has called the shots in many local derbies, has now very much reached the veteran stage and had little influence on the game.