Skipton 9

Harrogate Pythons 15

A MUCH improved Skipton put in a spirited performance against top of the table Harrogate Pythons and came away with a losing bonus point after taking the league leaders right down to the wire in a 15-9 loss.

The Reds started well with two strong scrums and held the first two waves of Harrogate attack, but a penalty for off-side within kickable range gave the visitors the opportunity to open the scoring.

Skipton then suffered a an early blow with full-back Jack McLeod leaving the field with a dislocated finger.

He was replaced by George Smithson and from the re-start Skipton gained two successive penalties for Harrogate going over the top.

The second was within kickable range and stand-off Yvarne Carroll levelled the scores.

The Pythons' grip on the game seemed to be slipping as they conceded three penalties in the next phase of play for holding down, off-side and a high tackle.

The third was again within kickable range and Carroll had no trouble in taking the lead for Skipton.

The home side forced the visitors back with some great forward work and turnover ball from the re-start but suffered another blow with a yellow card for back-row Harry McEneaney for an infringement at the ruck.

A sweet move by the Pythons put their winger clear. He dropped the ball on the line but Skipton were deemed to have made an illegal tackle and the Pythons were awarded a penalty try.

Skipton were awarded a penalty immediately from the re-start following robust forward play, which Carroll slotted to bring the half-time score to 10-9 to Harrogate.

From the re-start, a Skipton penalty for Harrogate holding down was compounded ten metres for back-chat to the referee and Carroll's attempt at goal, whilst on target, fell just short of the bar.

Skipton newcomer Joe Stapleton has strength, size and pace on the wing and impressed with textbook tackles in the first half but had to leave the field with a shoulder injury after a crunching tackle which also laid out his opposite number.

The Pythons' took advantage of Skipton's temporary disarray and evaded two tackles to go in for a try in the corner. The try was not converted but they had established a 15-9 lead.

Skipton suffered a further setback as hooker Ryan Chafer also received a yellow card for an infringement at the ruck but Skipton stalwart Charlie Brown stole the ball at the line-out and the home side gained a penalty for Harrogate going over the top. Carroll's attempt at goal drifted just wide.

Skipton coach Craig Bartlett brought back row-row Harry Maltby on with 15 minutes to go and the work rate and spirit in the Skipton forwards could be felt in the stand.

They put the ball through many phases of play and hammered the Harrogate line, knowing that a converted try would secure a win.

McEneaney made a 20 metre break, taking three opposition players with him, but time ran out for the home side and they left the field to a standing ovation from the Skipton crowd for an impressive display of determined rugby.