Selby 33 Scarborough 36
Scarborough and Selby shared 10 tries in a pulsating Yorkshire Challenge Shield semi-final at Sandhill Lane.
The Seasiders raced to a 24-7 half-time lead scoring three memorable tries in the process, but had to withstand a spirited second half Selby fightback before deservedly progressing to the final of the world’s oldest rugby knockout competition.
The visitors made an inauspicious start making a mess of Selby’s kick-off and the home side camped in Scarborough territory for most of the opening ten minutes; however poor handling and sluggish work in midfield saw skipper Phil Watson’s men handle the early pressure with no real scares.
Honours were even following an opening quarter in which Selby threatened but continually fluffed the final pass and Scarborough built up a head of steam through centres Craig Farrell and Benji Cottle who were beginning to test the home midfield and wing Harry Domett who was proving a handful for his opposite number Ben Lunt. And when Scarborough pressed on the Selby line wide on the left and lost possession, fly-half Porter cleared diagonally cross-field only to find Domett who waltzed round two players and cut in to score near the posts in the 23rd minute. Ratcliffe added the extras for a 7-0 Scarborough lead.
Domett was almost over three minutes later but the vagaries of the oval ball saw a chip-through take an awkward bounce and the Kiwi flyer knocked on. However the Seasiders were not to be denied and a three minute purple patch brought another couple of tries; skipper Phil Watson driving over from a rolling maul in the 28th minute and slick midfield handing sending Cottle bustling through in the 31st minute. Ratcliffe converted both for a 21-0 lead.
Selby redoubled their efforts to get into the game before halftime and following a series of rucks on the Scarborough line, centre Alex Arthur went over from close range in the 36th minute. Fullback Josh Cruise converted to reduce the arrears to fourteen points. However Scarborough had the last word of the first forty, Ratcliffe kicking a long-distance penalty in the 40th minute to give his side a 24-7 half-time lead.
Scarborough made a good start to the second half and having secured possession from a lineout just outside the Selby 22, drove for the line; three consecutive Scarborough attacking scrums had Selby pinned on their line and the visitors appeared to have scored a push-over try when No8 Matthew Else touched down. However referee Mr Gordge awarded a penalty try and Ratcliffe converted from in front of the posts for 31-7 in the 45th minute.
The penalty try was the precursor to a terrific Selby fight back; forward replacement Ben Booth crossed following pressure wide on the Selby left in the 50th minute. Cruise missed the conversion and the home side trailed 31-12.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain Selby ran everything with fly-half Porter playing a starring role; however a loose pass just outside the Scarborough 22 saw Nino Cutino almost effect an interception for the visitors but he just couldn’t hold on to the ball.
Substitute back row Martin Protheroe, an imposing unit at well over six foot and 200lbs plus was striking panic in the Scarborough defence with a series of bullocking charges up Selby’s left flank and from such a foray prop Duncan Hardy, up in support went over to reduce the arrears further at 31-19 on the hour. Cruise added the extras and it was ‘game on’ with Selby less than two converted tries adrift.
The fight had by no means gone out of the Seasiders as they regained momentum and only superb Selby defence prevented Farrell, Cottle then hooker Mark Hopper going over. Left wing Graeme Jeffery then got over the line only for an out-of-position and therefore unsighted Mr Gordge to disallow the big Geordie’s effort. However something had to give and Selby defensive resistance crumbled as Cottle powered over for his second try of the game in the 68th minute. Ratcliffe missed the difficult conversion but Scarborough led 36-19.
Protheroe was continuing to trouble the visiting defence and a great break up the left flank saw the big ex-Warfedale No8 offload to wingman Ben Lunt who touched down. Protheroe appeared to have a foot in touch as he passed but Mr Gorgde awarded the try after consultation with his touch judge. Cruise converted to reduce the arrears to ten points at 36-26 in the 71st minute
In a heart-stopping finish in which 13 minutes of time added on for injury was played substitute fly-half Tom Harrison and Cutino were sin-binned reducing the visitors to 13 men. Selby scored their fifth try when the ball was moved crossfield in the 22 and Scarborough ran out of numbers; Booth strolled in to score. Cruise kicked the conversion to reduce the arrears to three points but it was the last action of a hugely exciting afternoon and Mr Gordge called a halt to proceedings.
Although Selby came very close with a brave second half repost, Scarborough fully deserved to make it their first Shield final since 2001. The forwards destroyed the home eight at the set scrum and the only way they could combat that was to push early throughout the game; this was never penalized. In the pack, the tight five were outstanding with loose forwards Chris Purdy, Nightingale and Else abrasive all afternoon. Behind them Ratcliffe, Domett, Farrell and Cottle took the plaudits in an effective back division.