Scarborough kicked off 2012 in the same fashion as they ended 2011, losing a game they surely should have won.
This time Nick Ingham’s troops lost by the odd point in 41 against a York side that went off like a train, ran out of ideas before half-time, but still managed to snatch the points with a late kick as the visitors ended the game conceding a rash of penalties.
Scarborough sleep walked through the opening stages of the game as if sated by festive indulgence, conceding a couple of relatively soft tries in the process; the first from a maul just outside their 22 when York streamed through a gap in mid-field and left wing Rich Downey waltzed between the sticks to open the scoring.
Fly-half Jon Dawes added the extras for a 7-0 lead in the 6th minute.
The Minster-men laid siege to the Scarborough line and only poor handling and indecision prevented them from adding to their tally.
However, they stretched their lead to 12-0 in the 14th minute when a misdirected clearance from visiting fly-half Tom Harrison found a pair of York hands and a swift move down the right flank saw back-row Joe Maud, up in support, power over. Dawes’ conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
York continued to dominate possession and territory but the visitors had upped their game and some solid defensive work, with flanker Chris Purdy to the fore, kept them in the game.
Harrison got his kicking game going and some howitzer-like efforts gained the Seasiders good field position.
Good work by the Scarborough number ten and his halfback partner Jake Rollinson, combined with some meaty stuff from lock Phil Watson, was getting the visitors onto the front foot and from pressure deep in the York 22, flanker Charlie Hoggard popped up a pass for prop Nino Cutino to barge over on the half-hour. Harrison converted to reduce the arrears to five points at 7-12.
Harrison reduced the deficit to a couple of points four minutes later with a well struck penalty. Some neat incisions by Harrison and Ratcliffe then almost took Scarborough over the home line.
At this point, York infringed in front of their own posts and from a Jake Rollinson tap, skipper Nick Ingham was driven over from short range in the 38th minute.
Harrison’s conversion took the visitors to the break ahead for the first time in the game at 17-12.
With Matthew Else moving into the second row for Watson who came off at half time with a calf injury, Hoggard took his place at No8 and Luke Raines came on in the back row.
And skipper Ingram’s men took the initiative early in the half, driving deep into home territory with some searing runs from Harrison, Ratcliffe, fullback Rob James and wing Corey Dennis stretching the York defence.
However, on several occasions great work by the York back three kept their side in the game.
Ratcliffe’s deceptive pace and guile took him past half the York side in the 53rd minute and looked certain to take him to the line when he outstripped his opposite number Jamie Everleigh, however a tap tackle from Atkinson stopped the big winger and following a bit of ‘argy bargy’ in the aftermath, York were awarded a penalty and the chance was gone.
As the action swung from end to end York were awarded a further penalty in the visitor’s half and it was made kickable by some undisciplined back chat from a Scarborough player; Dawes cut the lead to 17-15 with the kick in the 55th minute.
Going into the final quarter and with Graeme Jeffrey on at fullback and James replacing Rollinson at scrum-half, the game still ebbed and flowed, but Scarborough always looked the more likely to score a try and when Dennis swooped on a loose ball on halfway he sprinted to the line and looked certain to score his first try for the club.
However, as he stepped inside a York defender with the line in sight he was gobbled up by a great cover tackle by Atkinson and knocked on in the process.
A pack creaking at the set scrums minus Watson and the injured Cutino managed to wheel the York scrum in front of their posts but then lost it on their own put-in. Further good work by James, substitute Graeme Jeffrey and Dennis saw the visitors go close before Harrison stretched the lead to 20-15 with a penalty in the 70th minute.
The last ten minutes was a nightmare for the visitors with a plethora of penalties conceded and Dawes stroked one over to reduce the arrears at 20-18 in the 72nd minute.
Hoggard was yellow carded with five minutes to go and Scarborough buckled under pressure in the closing minutes conceding a penalty at a scrum in front of their own posts for Dawes to gratefully accept and kick his side to victory.
Coach Dave Beck and his charges will be very disappointed at once again losing a game late on and by a narrow margin.
Except when Watson was on the field, the pack creaked at the set scrums and injury to Watson and Cutino is a blow at this point in the season.
However, a great first half fight back and their defensive performance after a jittery start will have given them heart, but unless their discipline improves it’s going to be an uphill struggle in the months to come.