Scarborough lost the toss and had to play the first half of this local derby at Dukes Park with the bright winter sunshine in their eyes and consequently struggled with Bridlington’s aerial bombardment throughout the first 40 minutes of the game.
Playing with Tom Ratcliffe at fly-half and returning New Zealander Harry Domett on the right wing, the Seasiders made a positive start to the game and spent the opening seven or eight minutes deep in Bridlington territory.
During this period some slick handling and free running in the backs augured well for the game to come.
However although missing full-back Sizwe Zondo with a rib injury and having veteran fly-half Jamie Muru drafted in at fly-half, Bridlington looked no pushovers. A scampering run deep into Scarborough territory by Bridlington wing Gary Stevens had the visitors on the back foot but good cover tackling averted the danger.
However when a penetrative run into the Scarborough 22 by centre Ryan Girking stretched the visitors’ defensive line, the ball was moved wide to Stevens who took advantage of the overlap to romp into the corner.
Steve Mellonby drafted in at full-back kicked the touchline conversion with aplomb for a 7-0 lead in the 13th minute.
Bridlington had barely a minute to enjoy their lead before Scarborough struck back, Ratcliffe reducing the arrears to four points with a penalty.
And in the 18th minute the visitors took the lead with a try straight out of the top drawer.
A scrum in centre field just inside the home ten metre line saw the ball moved swiftly left for Ratcliffe to release Benjti Cottle hitting the line; a shimmy through the gap and the Kiwi centre powered over from 24 metres. Ratcliffe added the extras to nudge his side 10-7 ahead.
Scarborough’s forwards who had performed well at the lineout and were embarrassing the home eight in the set scrums were reshuffled in the 20th minute with Ryan Pickering coming on for Paul Taylor.
Although the lineout remained solid, the home front row seemed more comfortable against this front three and began to gain both parity and confidence. Scarborough then lost the services of skipper Phil Watson with a hand problem and he was replaced by Nick Ingham in the second row.
A Steve Mellonby penalty in the 22nd minute levelled the scores at 10-10.
The Seasiders appeared to have lost their early impetus and were most definitely getting outmuscled by the Bridlington forwards particularly around the tackle area where they were coming off second best.
Fly-half Muru, although now a very static number ten, used all his experience by hoisting some huge up-and-unders into the sun-facing visiting defenders who mostly coped but were under pressure from this ploy.
Scarborough continued to look dangerous but a tendency in the forwards to do too much, saw slow or no ball getting out leaving a back-line champing at the bit and frustrated.
And when the next try came it was to the home side. As the visiting defence were sorting themselves out to defend a penalty in their own 22, a quick tap and pass saw prop Ezra Luxton drive over from close range in the 36th minute. Mellonby slotted the simple conversion for a 17-10 lead they took to the break.
Starting the second half with fourteen men, No8 Hoggard had been sin-binned just before halftime; Scarborough looked to use some of the high-ball tactics used by Bridlington in the first half but by now the sun was low in the sky and not directly in the home defenders eyes.
However an excursion into the Bridlington half saw the home side infringe but Ratcliffe couldn’t oblige, pulling his kick to the right of the posts in the 44th minute.
Scarborough were making the running but were bullied at the breakdown by a totally committed Bridlington side.
A series of rucks in front of raucous crowd in the stand produced three yellow cards in five minutes with a couple of Brid players sin-binned for use of the boot and Scarborough prop Taylor also sent to cool his heals in the bin.
However despite their bustle the visitors were constantly second best to a limited but aggressive home side.
A team can have all the ability and talent in the world but there are some ‘muck and nettles’ games where they really have to front up.
Trailing by only a single score and a quarter of the game still to go there was no reason why Scarborough couldn’t have fought back to win the game. Somehow it didn’t look as if it would happen.
A searing break by full-back Graeme Jeffrey took the Seasiders into the home 22 in the closing stages and an offload would surely have sent young wing Joe Lenton over; however it never came.
Mellonby should have put the game beyond Scarborough with three uncharacteristic penalty misses in 68th, 72nd and 75th minutes. The game ended in farce as a wayward clearance from outside his 22 from Muru was sailing directly into touch; scrum half Zybnek Schutz jumped and knocked the ball into play for Jeffrey, but his tap back went straight to Brid left wing Ryan Kerr who scampered away to touchdown his ‘gift’.
Mellonby missed the conversion and Mr Saunders blew up to put Scarborough’s players and supporters out of their misery.
A deeply disappointing afternoon saw Scarborough concede far too many penalties and turn up with the wrong mindset for this game.
Scarborough: Jeffrey, Lenton, Cottle, Parker, Domett, Ratcliffe, Schutz, Cutino, Williams, Taylor, Oxtoby, Watson (capt), Purdy, Nightingale, Hoggard. Substitutes: Pickering, Ingham, Stewart.