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Skipton win in nail-biting finish
Buy this photo » Skipton scrum half Shaun Barraclough scores a try
Skipton 18 Rotherham Phoenix 16
It would seem that Skipton like putting their supporters through the mill. Once again nothing was certain until the very last kick of the game.
Team selection proved difficult as injury forced influential captain Darren Howson to withdraw, joining an ever-growing injury list.
Adam Oldfield was drafted in at stand-off, while Josh Beck again reverted to outside centre from flanker, his place going to Jordan Wilson. Prop Ian Heron, unable to travel with the second team was on the bench along with promising young Colts winger Matt Ray, Andy Maclean and Ben Hall,.
Rotherham won the toss and elected to play into the strong easterly wind, and despite this they took an early lead with a penalty for a ruck infringement.
It was a theme that was to dominate the rest of the game, with neither side willing to accept without question the referee’s decisions, the consequences of which could have proved costly for Skipton.
From the restart Oldfield worked the Reds steadily forward, the eventual pressure leading to the inevitable three points after Rotherham incurred the wrath of the referee and conceded an extra ten metres for back chat which enabled Jeremy Hargreaves to level the scores.
The visitors regained some composure and began probing the home defence through their stand off. They were rewarded as another Skipton indiscretion, plus the now almost obligatory ten metres, gifted Phoenix three points.
Neither side coped with the referee’s decisions and Rotherham had their No8 yellow carded midway through the half. Not to be outdone the home side incurred a “team” yellow card before the half ended, with Hall taking the wrap, the frustrated coaches only able to look on in disbelief.
Oldfield was replaced by Maclean after 30 minutes due to injury, the re-shuffled back line was now led by Miff Smith at stand off. The backs soon adjusted and began working well forcing the visitors back into their own 22.
From a scrum Sam Harrison again showed he is a force to be reckoned with. He picked up and drove at the heart of Rotherham’s defence, taking out three defenders before offloading to full back Hargreaves who crossed for the try for an 8-6 lead.
This lead was further stretched when an excellent driving maul by the forwards saw scrum-half Shaun Barra- clough crash over for the try, with Hargreaves adding the extras.
A 15-6 lead looked moderately comfortable for Skipton, a side now well used to defending a lead against the elements on their home ground, but a further needless penalty with a minute to go before half-time reduced the arrears to just six points, leaving the crowd nervously awaiting the second period.
Now playing with the wind behind them the home side looked to dominate from the off, but despite much pressure they could not find the final elusive pass as numerous moves broke down.
A long range Hargreaves penalty after yet another ruck infringement relieved the tension somewhat to give a nine-point lead.
The game then drifted into a penalty strewn stalemate with neither side able to dominate.
Skipton brought on Ray, but his inside players were unable to release his speedy potential. The nearest Skipton got to scoring was when the excellent David Wellock was held up over the line.
Rotherham’s stand-off never gave up and forced an error from the Reds leading to a late tryx. The successful conversion set up yet another nail-biting finish for the home supporters.
A nervous Skipton defence conceded an eminently kickable penalty with only two minutes to go, the kick failing as it drifted just wide of the upright.
The nerves jangled even more as Beck decided to run the ball from his own in-goal area instead of settling for a 22 drop-out. With the wrong decision came the pressure, and Skipton were penalised again in what the referee declared to be the last play of the game.
The nail-biting had now reached the elbows, as those who dared looked on and saw Rotherham’s stand-off step forward. The ball soared high and goalward but just drifted past the far upright. Wellock fielded the ball, delaying the touchdown just enough to worry the crowd one final time, before bringing proceedings to a joyous and end for Skipton and a bitter one for Phoenix.
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