SCARBOROUGH Pirates kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 34-16 defeat of Northallerton Stallions.
Coach Chris Keld gave opening day debuts to youngsters Cory Goodlad, Zac Metcalfe and Ben Owram on the strength of their input at training in recent weeks.
Playing against a Northallerton side boasting five Fijians the challenge for these 16-year-olds would be a baptism of fire. All three grasped the gauntlet and in the early exchanges proved Keld’s faith in them to be right.
Goodlad playing at hooker was quick and decisive, Metcalfe at prop used his bulk to penetrate and Owram at second row shone with his natural ability to skip and dance through the Northallerton rear-guard off loading like a player of more substantial experience.
The early exchanges were typical day one, with error-strewn sets.
The Pirates promised, but failed to deliver, with knock ons, forward passes and lack of communication.
On the positive side, in defence, whilst a little unorganised, the tackling left the visitors aware that they had come to face a determined side.
The travelling Stallions were to draw first blood on 12 minutes. A Kevin Quig try came from a needless penalty, given away in the Pirates 20 metre zone.
Five minutes later, still struggling to cope with the ingenuity of the Fijians, the Pirates gave away another penalty directly in front of the posts.
The Stallions stand-off Steve Naylor converted to edge 6-0 in front on 17 minutes
This resulted in the Pirates galvanising there approach and a more determined focus saw captain Adam Lee dart in to score right of the posts on 27 minutes. Full-back Mike Picken converted to bring the scores level.
Northallerton were still however the stronger side, forcing the Pirates defensive line to work hard to keep them at bay.
Coach Keld, encouraged his troops to defend in line, but even an improved line had no answer to a superb move that was excellently finished by Tico Maidecana under the posts. Amazingly Naylor sliced the conversion, which meant the Pirates were only four behind.
A number of quick plays from the Pirates put the Stallions on the back foot for the first time in the game. Lee continued to be the main threat as the Pirates worked the ball up through centre field.
Sam Hakings made good ground to set the platform for second row forward Dom Brining to clinch a vital try just before the interval. Picken obliged with the boot, to secure a telling half time lead at 12 -10.
Pirates began the second period with a more controlled and measured period of play. Alex Conlin and Jamie Broadmore made significant contributions with penetrating drives, more importantly holding the ball confidently and not squandering ball to the opponents.
Percentage rugby, completing the set was to prove decisive. Lee went over for his second try of the game with Picken converting.
Craig Marsden moved up from centre to stand off, resulting in firstly him responding quickest, close to the line to reach a long arm to touch down, then virtually from the re start, breaking to draw the Stallions second row and centre in with a subtle side step, then popping a lovely pass up for Crown Tavern landlord Kev Walker to waltz through unopposed to score a debutant try for the Pirates.
Lee converted both tries to put the home side 30-10 in front with 20 minutes still to play.
Keld shuffled his big squad to introduce Marc McNeill, Shaun Hall, Jordan Wilkinson and Kieron Tindall for senior team debuts. This season the Pirates will field two sides, with promise of some excellent rugby league ahead.
The years of hard work at junior level is now reaping reward, with all participants looking sharp.
James Fleming made some confident breaks, while the Seavers brothers Luke and Saul look back at their best. Jack Johnson returns to the Pirates and will prove to be an asset, able to play at any position.
Oliver Battye put in his usual sound performance at centre, with Tom Jenkinson and Bev Winterbottom both building in confidence on the wings.
Up front the quality of Dave Douthwaite, Dan Stanley and Keith Paddock was ensuring and the effervescent Nick Burgess always ignites the crowd with his big tackling game.
The visitors kept pressing and on 69 minutes a cleverly worked move was completed with a Don Payne try.
Referee Andy Howe was in the right place to spot a late shot from Lee, despatching him to the sin bin to cool down, allowing Payne to reduce the deficit to 30-16 with the penalty.
The game had ebbed, the Stallions belief now broken, when Picken chased down a long kick to dive onto to the loose ball to deservedly add his name to the scorers, making it 34-16
On the whole a rounded performance, that will surely lead to the youngsters challenging the more established players for a Premier League start.
Man of the match went to 16 year old Cory Goodlad for his superb first 30 minutes.
He calmly went about his game, while more experienced players around him huffed and puffed but gained little.
A lesson to be learned where less is more? He got to the play off the ball quickly, despatched effectively and was commanding in his leg tackling defence.