North Ribblesdale 11, Wath Upon Dearne 21
Wath Upon Dearne are a very big side, well marshalled by two influential players – former Bradford & Bingley scrum half Joe Bartlett and former Cleckheaton No 8 Matthew Burrows.
Ribb lost in a very similar manner to their two other SSE Yorkshire Division One home defeats – against Barnsley and Pontefract.
However, they could have won this game – they had ample field position – but despite the accurate goal-kicking of Jonathan Richards, they opted for scrums when they could have kicked penalties.
The final pushover attempt was understandable – they were 15-11 down with five minutes to go – but it was they who knocked the ball on at the scrum base and gave away 80 metres to concede two penalties which put Wath clear.
To round off an unhappy day for Ribb, their most potent attacking back Simon Bolland suffered a serious ankle ligament injury which will keep him out for several weeks.
Ribb started strongly, keeping Wath in their own half for the first 15 minutes, and came away with three points from a Richards penalty.
They had a lot of possession in this period but could not consolidate with another score – they did have penalties on the Wath line and tried a pushover but could not make headway.
This was critical in a game dominated by defence. Wath then had a spell on top, using their big pack to drive Ribb back, and missed one penalty but full back Tom Quinn was successful with another.
Wath were soon back on the attack, forcing a scrum under the Ribb posts.
A pick-up by Burrows was enough to create space for Bartlett to go over for a converted try for Wath to take a 10-3 advantage.
Ribb came back into the game and took play to Wath, a good kick by Steve Moon causing panic in the Wath back three and Tom Stead hacking the ball on before grounding.
The referee clearly signalled a try, only to change his mind, and puzzlingly there appeared to be no intervention by the touch judge.
This was not the last controversial incident. Five minutes later, Moon went over from 40 metres to be pulled back for crossing – quite why the referee let him run 40 metres when he had offended is not clear when there was absolutely no prospect of an advantage to Wath.
Ribb finished the half pressing but remained 10-3 down.
In the second half, Ribb played their best rugby of the game, despite a head injury to Matt Speres and that bad ankle injury to Bolland.
Rob Hayes, on for Bolland, made some good runs and, after a period of Ribb pressure, Will Davidson combined with Richards, who scored wide out for an unconverted try.
Ribb attacked from the kick-off and were soon in the Wath half, Richards kicking a penalty for offside to put the hosts a point ahead.
The Wath pack looked to tire but they got the critical score after a break by Bartlett got Brett Small over wide out with five minutes to go. The try was not converted but Wath now led 15-11.
Ribb came back and forced a penalty in the Wath 22. A kick at goal would have left them a point adrift so they went for a scrum but could not shift Wath and then knocked the ball on at the base.
Wath got the ball away and kicked it downfield, whereupon the home side knocked-on.
Further ground was lost and Wath landed a penalty to make it 18-11.
There was a chance for Ribb to draw but they again gave away 60 metres and a penalty to give Wath a flattering score of 21-11.
Ribb did not get the rub of the green – but these things happen, and late in the game there was a loss of discipline and concentration in the pack which allowed Wath to extend their lead.
The hosts also gave away a huge amount of penalties and lost a game against a very big, well-organised side who they should have beaten.
There is a lot of potential in this North Ribblesdale side. They can compete with the best but they need to iron out those flaws.
Ribb’s second XV lost 21-12 to Upper Eden in a game dominated by the home side’s massive pack.
Ribb’s stand-out player was Tom Pedley, who had a very good game despite going backwards all day.