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Skipton miss their chances and have to settle for losing bonus point
10:24am Thursday 24th October 2013 in Sport
Northallerton 16 Skipton 11
The long trip to Northallerton produced little dividend for injury-hit Skipton.
They were unable to convert their superior rugby skills into outright victory in this closely contested game, managing only to secure a losing bonus point late on.
Skipton were hampered even before the start of the game as winger James Tomlinson failed to arrive. Ben Hall and James Ackers were also unavailable and Josh Beck felt unable to travel as he awaits the imminent arrival of his first child. All this increased the pressure on the already depleted squad, with six first team players on the injured list, and prop John Firth unable to play because of work.
Chris Lambert captained the side in the continued absence through injury of Darren Howson. Miff Smith remained at stand off and the makeshift backline featured newcomer Luke Stockton and Jim Hargreaves in the centres, with colt Redver Stork-Flatley and Stuart Barraclough taking the wing positions and Andy Maclean at full back. Ian Heron and Charlie Brown were on the bench.
The Reds early pressure as they played down the slope was repeatedly halted by penalties given away at the ruck. To the fore in most attacks were David Wellock and Sam Harrison, the latter at one point finding himself clear with the line beckoning, only to be hunted down by a lone Northallerton defender who managed to dislodge the ball in a last ditch-tackle which prevented a certain try.
Debutant Stockton proved to be a handful and looks a useful prospect, combining well with stand-off Smith who was held up over the line from one good move.
When breakthrough came it was Hargreaves, playing at outside centre for the first time this season, who crossed the whitewash wide out, narrowly missing with the conversion.
The floodgates should have opened, but the visitors were continually repelled by a dogged defence and their teams’ ability to play their home ground well and cope against the elements. The referee’s whistle also intervened and interrupted the flow of the game as Skipton failed to heed the reasons for the mounting penalty count against them.
With increasing exasperation the visitors began to concede ground to the ever-more confident home side, who found themselves still in a game that should have been put to bed long before half-time. A good kick and chase gained line-out position deep into Skipton territory and from the resulting pressure Northallerton equalised through their left wing Gary Aspen who crossed wide out for an unconverted try just before the break.
With the teams equal on points Northallerton introduced some fresh blood and began to force more penalties from Skipton.
Dan Luck converted two to give the home side a six point lead.
The Reds, who were unable to set a good enough platform for the backs to work from, looked increasingly ragged and were further disrupted by a recurring injury to ‘Mad Dog’ Jimmy Boynton early in the second half. Ian Heron came on at prop and looked solid in the set plays, with Lambert reverting to hooker. The loss of Wellock blunted the attacking force, and Harrison nursing an ankle injury was slightly less effective as the game went on. Tight-head prop Chris Wright never quite got his angry face on, as he had so effectively the previous week, and the pack as a whole, although not out-played were unable to dominate.
A mix-up in the Reds’ defence gifted Northalleton an unlikely try, scored by Martin Connor, and a 16-5 advantage going into the last quarter of the game. Given all their problems Skipton were still able to pressure the home line but could not force the crucial breakthrough. It was now the home side who began to concede penalties as they tried to run the clock down. One came within range and Hargreaves took the three points to narrow the score.
In the last action of the game the home side conceded another delaying pe
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