Scarborough began 2015 with a thrilling five try bonus-point win over visitors Yarnbury in perfect conditions for rugby at Silver Royd.
Coach Lee Douglas’ charges kicked off playing to the southern end of the ground with bright winter sunshine in their eyes.
The home eight had the upper hand in the early exchanges with Mark Hopper, Ian Williams and Paul Taylor outstanding in the front row. Behind them former skipper Nick Ingham was adding torque from the engine room.
The Seasiders should have taken the lead in the 11th minute when a surging run by full-back Corey Dennis took play deep into the Yarnbury half: he released centre Tom Ratcliffe, who set winger Joe Marshall galloping for the line only to be dragged down short. Dennis almost made to the line himself a minute later but was bundled into touch just feet from the line.
Martin Robinson at scrum-half was giving his opposite number Oliver Cashman a trying opening quarter of the game and the Yarnbury skipper was sin-binned in the 11th minute for pulling down a maul just short of his own line.
A series of drives in the visitors’ 22 were stopped short before number eight Matthew Else drove over on the open side to break the deadlock in the 15th minute. Fly-half Tom Harrison converted for 7-0.
Yarnbury looked to break down their right flank from the restart and a great run by open-side flanker James Cryan was halted when he was driven into touch by the returning Harry Domett on the wing.
Scarborough won the resulting lineout and Marshall thundered through a gap to release Domett who outstripped visiting full-back Stuart Wilson to cross and cut-in to ground between the uprights in the 20th minute. Harrison added the extras for 14-0.
And the Seasiders stretched their lead a minute later when Ratcliffe broke from half-way and powered his way through the visiting defence; he was caught on the line but popped up a perfect pass for centre Graeme Jeffrey to barge over. Harrison added his third conversion for 21-0.
Scarborough re-shuffled their front row in the 33rd minute with tight-head Taylor being replaced and they struggled to maintain their cohesion from there and the supply of quick ball to the backs dried up.
However they should have had a bonus try before half-time when Dennis cut through the entire visiting defence with an amazing jinking run but failed to release his runners and was tackled short.
That was to prove costly as from a catch and drive in first half injury time a visiting forward was driven over to get his side back in the game at 21-5.
On past experience the Scarborough faithful were jittery at the start of the second half and with good cause as Yarnbury wing James Myercough finished off a slick move down the right touchline to power over in the corner for 21-10 with only a minute of the second half gone. Fly-half Hardaker missed with his second conversion attempt.
The Silver Royd eight were now struggling at their own put-ins at the scrums and line-outs, however things seemed to improve with the return of Taylor but they conceded a dreadful try at a defensive five-metre line-out in the 54th minute when the ball was thrown to Yarnbury flanker Cryan, who flopped over to score. Hardaker missed the conversion but the visitors had fought back to within six points of Scarborough at 21-15.
Yarnbury were looking the better of the two teams with some great handling in the backs with fly-half Hardaker in good form.
However, just when they needed it Scarborough had a slice of luck when a couple of visiting players got into a tangle on half-way and Ratcliffe won possession before galloping half the length of the field to score in the 62nd minute. Harrison added the extras for a 28-15 lead somewhat against the run of play.
The Seasiders had some breathing space but were hardly out of the woods with almost a quarter of the match to go and although they lost the services of Ingham, they re-established their dominance up front with Else taking his place, Robinson moving into the back row and Jordan Wakeham coming on at scrum-half.
The exchanges were keen and a bit tasty but some great tackles from the back three augmented by centres Jeffrey and Ratcliffe kept the visitors at bay.
And as the visiting forwards seemed to tire, Scarborough won a scrum just inside their own half; Aussie Back row Eamon Chapman rumbled up the right touchline and having eventually been brought down, presented Domett with good ball to surge through the Yarnbury defence and score his second try in the 78th minute. Harrison added his fifth conversion for 35-15.
All over? Not a bit of it. Not for the first time this season the Scarborough side thought the job was done and conceded a couple of unnecessary injury time tries; the first in the 82nd minute when following a rolling maul, a Yarnbury player ran into the upright in possession and the try was correctly awarded by referee Mike Ramsen. Hardaker kicked his first conversion of the afternoon for 35-22.
The game ended with a series of Yarnbury driving mauls on the Scarborough line before Mr Ramsden awarded a try for a Yarnbury hand under a pile of bodies in the eighth minute of injury time. Hardaker failed to convert and Scarborough breathed a sigh of relief.
For Scarborough pick of the pack was prop Paul Taylor, while behind him Dennis, Domett, Ratcliffe and Harrison took the plaudits.
Third-placed Yarnbury were never going to be pushovers even when Scarborough raced to a 21-0 lead and so it proved to be as the visitors ran in five tries themselves and played some good rugby.
Scarborough’s fallow period when the front row was re-shuffled proves set pieces are vital and you just can’t play without the ball.