TWO North Ribblesdale Rugby Union Football Club legends took centre stage last Saturday.

Firstly, the Yorkshire Division Two match between Ribb and leaders and hosts Keighley was the inaugural staging of the Gordon Throup Challenge Cup, which the home side claimed after a 38-6 victory.

Throup, a former player and coach of Ribb, who also played for Wharfedale, Morley and Yorkshire, died of cancer last November aged just 56.

His family were present at Rose Cottage to watch the match, and one of his contemporaries, the indefatigable prop John Thwaite, who is 57, was Ribb’s man of the match for his efforts in the scrum, which hooker Throup would have appreciated.

Thwaite, who confirmed that this would be his last season in a Ribb playing jersey, said of Throup: “He was a hell of a player, a character, everything . . .

“It makes the hairs on the back of my neck go up just thinking about him – he was just a good lad, and he tried very hard in his life and played to a good standard, and you just want to go out and try and do your best for him.

“I was lucky to play with him and he would always do his best for you and you would always do your best for him, and anyone would. He played for a lot of teams and will have brought that aura with him.”

As for Ribb’s display, Thwaite said: “Keighley have had some very good results and we were apprehensive coming down but we got stuck in, did the best that we can and played well.

“We have a lot of young lads playing – such as outside centre Jack Depledge, fly half Freddie Spensley, who landed a hell of a drop goal, and right winger Harris Dinsdale – due to injuries, and they are good lads and we are lucky to have them.”

Thwaite added: “I don’t win many man-of-the-match awards but we are getting 30-34 lads down to training, and the previous week when we had no game we were able to run the first team against the second team, and the first team acted as battering rams to help the second team prepare for their game, which is excellent.

“But this will be my last season. I was going to pack in earlier but Covid and player injuries messed things up. I revert back to what Gordon thought: it is not what the club can do for you but what you can do for the club.

“Playing at Twickenham for Ribb against Leodiensian in 2004 would be my highlight, even though there was a burger van fire (the game was drawn 13-13). To walk out there was immense, even thought it was at 11am in the morning.

“I made my first-team debut in 1983, but it was not every week then until I came back from Australia in 1985-86 and started to play most weeks.

“I have decided to retire because it is hard work the day after. I live and help on my brother’s farm but I go out building for farmers.

“I was nervous about letting people down against Keighley in the same way that the young lads making their debuts now are nervous about the same thing – not letting the side down – but rugby is about enjoyment and I enjoyed it against Keighley.”

Ribb’s points came from a Spensley penalty in the first half and his 35-metre drop goal in the second half, but Dinsdale, safe under the high ball, came closest to a try for the visitors, making good ground in Keighley’s 22 before being held just short.

North Ribblesdale return to action on Saturday when they host Hullensians, a tough fixture with the latter sitting in third place in the league standings.