Harrison penalty helps Scarborough sink leaders Phoenix

Scarborough v Doncaster rugby.Battling for the ball.Picture Richard Ponter 134542f
Scarborough v Doncaster rugby.Battling for the ball.Picture Richard Ponter 134542f

Scarborough turned in their best performance of the season in a cracker of a game with leaders Doncaster Phoenix at Silver Royd, coming from 23-15 behind late in the game to snatch victory with a late penalty, the sides sharing six tries and produced a thriller which was a great advert for Yorkshire One rugby.

Reports on the size of their opponents had not been exaggerated and apart from a couple of players the south Yorkshiremen towered over the home side.

Scarborough had an early chance to grab the lead when the visitors were penalised at the first scrum of the game within a minute of the start but wing Tom Ratcliffe kicking from wide on the Scarborough left scraped an upright and the scoresheet remained blank.

Following that early let off Phoenix looked to dominate with a mixture of physicality around the paddock and a well organized mauling pack and it was no surprise when fly-half Ben Miller kicked them into the lead in the 10th minute when Scarborough drifted offside in front of their posts.

The visitors’ lead was, however, short-lived and following good work by No8 Matty Else on the Phoenix 22, they infringed at a ruck and Ratcliffe kicked his side level at 3-3 with a far from easy penalty in the 13th minute.

The action was fast and furious in midfield with ex-Saracens and Doncaster Knights centre Andy Ellis proving a threat through the middle and some howitzer-like kicking from Harrison turning the visitors’ big forwards and putting their back three under pressure. And when centre Benji Cottle send Ratcliffe motoring up the left wing only an illegal tackle stopped the big winger from scoring.

However, now camped in the Doncaster 22, Scarborough were awarded a penalty near the line which they took quickly; a mix-up in the Phoenix defence saw the ball ricochet into the hands of scrum-half Zybnec Schutz who powered over for an 8-3 Scarborough lead in the 18th minute. Ratcliffe failed to convert.

Phoenix, who were the best side I’ve seen at Silver Royd so far this season came straight back with a series of powerful driving mauls and only when they were penalised deep in the home 22 for obstruction was the danger averted.

However following a superb take at an attacking line-out by second row Ollie Johnson, a driving maul rumbled forward once more and when the ball was moved infield ex-Doncaster Knights No8 Chris Planchant drove over between the uprights. Miller added the extras for a 15-8 lead in the 34th minute.

Scarborough were absolutely butchering their own lineouts and had to repulse a series of driving mauls which was the visitors’ main weapon of choice. However a magnificent defensive effort by a cast of 15 kept the home line intact.

And just when it seemed as if the Seasiders would settle to keep the visitors lead to seven points at the break, they pulled a try right out of the top drawer.

For the only time in the half, Phoenix made a mess of their own line-out on halfway; Else was onto it in a flash and the ball was moved infield through hands to Cottle who broke and chased his own raking grubber kick to outpace two defenders and get the touch on a thrilling try on the stroke of half-time. Ratcliffe converted to level the scores at 15-15.

Phoenix made a great start to the second half and great work by their back row with Planchant and open-side Ryan Peacey linking with Miller and Ellis in midfield took the south Yorkshiremen deep into home territory where they won a penalty head-on to the posts and Miller nudged his side 18-15 ahead with only four second half minutes on the clock.

They were on a roll and when they won a catch and drive five metres out, Miller was on hand to cash in on his forwards work but failed to convert and Doncaster led 23-15 in the 52nd minute.

As the game went into the fourth quarter the visiting leviathans appeared to tire and Scarborough’s youthful rotating front row of Tommy Goodman, Mark Hopper, Paul Taylor and Ryan Pickering were putting their much-vaunted but tiring opposite numbers under increasing pressure.

And from clean possession midway in the Doncaster half, a sweeping threequarters move was stopped just short of the visitors line; however Taylor, up in support, powered over in the 65th minute to reduce the arrears to three points. Ratcliffe missed the difficult conversion.

In a pulsating finish Harrison equalized at 23-23 with a 72nd minute penalty from 35 metres and five minutes later it looked as if Cottle had gone over for his second try of the game but Mr Shield judged his effort held-up.

A frenetic finish saw the ever industrious Schutz go near, then a visiting player was sin-binned for a professional foul before Harrison clipped over the winning penalty following the yellow-carding.

The excitement wasn’t yet over as Scarborough had to defend a five-metre scrum in front of their own posts deep in injury-time but it wasn’t to be Phoenix’s day and Harrison cleared his lines following great work by his forwards.

A totally committed performance saw the re-shuffled Scarborough team end the fitter of the sides.

Halfbacks Harrison and Schutz had a great afternoon while pick of a buzzing back division were fullback Graeme Jeffrey, Cottle and wingman Matty Young.

Up front the youthful front row plus Taylor, Oxtoby, Nightingale, Ingham and Else excelled. For Phoenix, Ellis, Miller, Peacey and Planchant took the plaudits.