Harrogate Pythons 64

Skipton 5

AN injury decimated Skipton side went down to a heavy 64-5 defeat at high-flying Harrogate Pythons on Saturday.

Despite securing the opening points of the game and taking the Pythons close in a hard fought first half, a series of second half injuries left the Skipton side looking like the retreat from Dunkirk and, with the scrum decimated, the Pythons ran in tries willy-nilly.

Skipton gave the home side a scare from the kick-off.

Joe Stapleton collected at full-back and broke. He was brought down just short but set up a platform to attack and three phases of play, with forwards Charlie Brown and Harry McEneaney driving in, put outside centre Joe Gill over in the corner for an early try.

The conversion attempt went wide but both home and away supporters were pensive at what might be to come.

Cruel misfortune for Skipton saw Stapleton pop his shoulder in the next move from the re-start, but it did herald the welcome return of Josh Smith to the Skipton side, replacing Stapleton at full-back.

The Pythons were stung by Skipton's early score and took the game to the visitors with some fury.

Smith bundled his man into touch with ease but turnover ball from the line-out set up a Pythons' attack and they were over for an unconverted try to level the scores.

Good forward work from the re-start gave Skipton a penalty.

Skipper Hamish Munro put the ball into the corner but Pythons stole the ball at the line-out and try number two for the home side was not long coming, after evading three Skipton tackles.

The visitors then resisted wave after wave of Pythons' attacks and took a scrum against the head just 10 metres out.

Munro cleared, only for the Pythons to mount a counter attack but an off-side gave Skipton the scrum and Munro again put the visitors down field.

Skipton drove the Pythons off the ball at the next scrum and winger Jamie Carroll picked up and ran.

A knock-on gave Pythons the advantage and they ran in a lucky try just before the break to establish a 19-5 lead.

The home side ran in a quick try after half-time and Skipton's woes began.

Joe Gill tore a calf muscle and was replaced by coach Craig Bartlett.

Prop Chris Wright left the field, with second row Mal Willsher replacing him in the pack.

Skipton gained a scrum for an infringement at the break down but were pushed off the ball and Pythons ran in try number five.

Prop Darren Greenwood also left the field for the visitors, being replaced in the front row by Tony Spensley at hooker with Brown moving to prop.

A period of good Skipton forward play followed and Wright returned to the field to stabilise the scrum but, against the run of play, an interception gave the home side their sixth try.

Two more tries quickly followed with the Pythons taking another scrum against the head.

Munro, Skipton's captain, then sustained a serious head injury and had to leave the field.

Skipton collapsed the next scrum giving Pythons an easy kick into the corner and try number nine from the line-out.

A textbook tackle from the re-start by back row Tom Harrison couldn't prevent try number ten and the final whistle blew on a disappointing afternoon for Skipton.