An out of sorts Scarborough side turned in their poorest forty minutes of the season and were distinctly second-best in a shapeless first half where they were out-thought and outplayed by a lively North Ribblesdale side.
However they never gave up the ghost and although they slipped 18-11 behind after the break, a storming finish saw them battle back to grab a 21-21 draw with the last kick of the game.
The Seasiders made a lively start and having hit an upright with a penalty within seconds of the kick-off, centre Tom Ratcliffe made amends with another penalty a minute later for a 3-0 lead.
This advantage was short lived as three minutes later a clearance kick inside the home 22 was charged down. From a subsequent lineout ‘Ribb’ gained possession and some uncharacteristically poor Scarborough tackles saw fly-half Steve Moon touch down to open the visitors account at 5-3.
Moon failed to convert.
In the middle twenty minutes of the half a lethargic home side struggled for possession as they failed on their own lineout and were second best at the breakdown, their only scoring attempts were a couple of unsuccessful penalty kicks from Ratcliffe.
And the star man so often this season, centre Benji Cottle just couldn’t get into the game. However they were more than a match at the set scrums with youthful front row of Nino Cutino, Mark Hopper and Tommy Goodman in fine form.
Scarborough took the lead in the 31st minute with a spectacular try when they won possession in midfield and Tom Harrison’s cross-field kick found the ever-alert Graeme Jeffrey on the left touchline; the big full-back fielded the ball Aussie-rules style and sprinted over from 20 metres.
Ratcliffe failed with the difficult conversion but Scarborough led 8-5. However the visitors struck back before the interval when Harrison looked to run the ball from his own 22 and his pass went straight into touch.
From the ensuing lineout ‘Ribb’ gained possession and hooker Ethan Henare barged over in the 37th minute. Moon converted for a 12-8 North Ribblesdale lead.
Ratcliffe had obviously left his kicking boots at home and missed a chance to reduce the arrears with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Scarborough kicked off the second half and drove up field where North Ribblesdale were penalized for not releasing and Tom Harrison knocked the kick over to reduce the arrears to a single point at 11-12 in the 44th minute.
Skipper Nino Cutino’s men then had some defensive work to do as the visitors with their skipper Matt Speres in great form laid siege to the home line.
A series of rucks and attacking scrums were repulsed but scrum-half Zbynec Schutz was sin-binned in the 49th minute for, I think, slowing down play at a ruck by preventing release of the ball? Flanker Blake Nightingale was temporarily substituted to allow Jake Rollinson to come on at scrum-half.
Reduced to 14 men and under the cosh, Coach Lee Douglas’ charges rolled up their metaphorical sleeves and got stuck in; great tackling by the remaining back-rowers the ever-industrious Chris Purdy and Granite-man Matty Else and try-saving tackles from Jake Rollinson and Matty Young kept their side in the game.
Skipper Cutino as usual led from the front in the tight and loose and the visitors only reward during Schutz and Nightingale’s absence was a Moon penalty in the 58th minute to stretch the visitors’ lead to 15-11.
However with the set-scrums a good source of possession Cutino’s men began to look a bit more fluid and gliding runs through the visiting defence by Ratcliffe and Cottle gave the Scarborough faithful hope before Moon dashed that hope with a drop-goal in the 71st minute for an 18-11 North Ribblesdale lead.
All the real excitement came in the last five minutes with the visitors appearing on course for victory. Great work by Cottle, Nightingale and Ratcliffe took Scarborough into the visitors 22, where the men from Settle conceded a string of penalties metres from their line; Scarborough chose a scrum and shunted the Ribb eight over with Nightingale getting the touch.
Harrison added the extras to tie the scores at 18-18 to great jubilation on and off the field.
With three minutes to go there was yet more drama to come as Matty Young was harshly penalized for not releasing and Moon silenced the home support by slotting the long-distance effort for 21-18 in the 80th minute with injury time to come.
Scarborough drove upfield into the opposition 22 where Ribb infringed. After a little thought the Seasiders decided to go for the win and ran the ball.
Ribb ran out of defenders and with a two man overlap wide on their left and the line begging, Cottle fired a poor miss-pass into touch.
But North Ribblesdale crept offside as the move developed and Tom Harrison chipped over the pressure penalty cool as you like for a 21-21 draw with the last kick of the game.