Barnsley came into this cup game as red hot favourites, due to their irresistible league form which has seen them already guarantee promotion.
Despite this, the injury stricken Skipton team started the game in formidable fashion, and straight from the kick off Skipton displayed some of the form that had allowed them to progress to this stage of the cup competetion, despite being underdogs on a weekly basis.
Returning talisman Darren Howson
controlled Skipton's attack, which started from a clever kick off, and involved some strong carrying from the pack and slick handling from a backline missing several key players.
Centre Lee Shaw returned from illness and was straight into the thick of the action with a powerful outside break and took play into Barnsley's 22. Barnsley, struggling to cope with the pace and enthusiasm of a young Skipton pack, had to infringe to prevent the seemingly inevitable try, and Ned Naylor duly converted the penalty to give Skipton the lead.
Skipton were straight back on the attack, with strong carrying by Rick Willsher, David Wellock
and Paddy Murray. Howson's sturdy right boot bought Skipton more territory, and good work from impressive back-rowers Ben Hall
and Shaun Barraclough
gave more possession to Skipton's backs. Skipton's scrum, weakened of late, was able to dominate the opposition again and again in the opening twenty, with the front row of Lambert, Shearer and Sheehan to the fore. The backs had good ball to work with, which centre Jonathan Richards utilised by squeezing in the corner, Naylor unable to convert the tricky conversion on this occasion.
Skipton's horrendous injury curse struck again meaning a pack reshuffle as Wellock limped from the field and Tom Creasey
entered the fray. This allowed Barnsley to get a foothold back in the game, and they showed the large home crowd exactly why they are top of the league. Their pack carries well and they have a backline capable of scoring tries from anywhere. Before the half finished Barnsley were able to score a quick two tries and a penalty, making the score 17-8 at the interval.
After using the break to reorganise their disrupted lineout, Skipton started the second half much like the first, by defending heroicly and attacking strongly. Young wings George Hall
and Gavin Ackers-Johnson showed pace and creativity to make yards, whilst scrum half Michael Smith
controlled the rampaging forwards diligently. Skipton, threatening the Barnsley line, were again awarded a penaly, Naylor again converting for three points.
At this point Skipton looked likely to strangle all life from the favourites as Barnsley were struggling to cope with Skipton's ball carrying forwards and lively backs. However, the injury curse struck again, as Murray became the second Skipton back-rower to leave the field injured, and was replaced by substitue hooker Jordan Emmison
. This obviously caused Skipton problems which Barnsley were able to exploit.
The rest of the match saw Skipton succomb to Barnsley's attacking prowess, despite showing as much heart, guts and determination as it was possible to muster. Barnsley scored four converted tries before prop Shearer had to retire due to injury and be replaced by centre Scott Kay
Special praise must go to second row Wilshere and flanker Hall, who were the driving force behind Skiptons defensive efforts in the forwards, and raised their games to compensate for the loss of their injured team mates. Another positive was the return of Howson, who has been sorely missed.
Fans will look at the first hour of this game and wonder what could have been if injuries had not ruined their chances. However, the players themselves can have pride in a performance which saw Skipton compete with a team which on paper should have dominated this game easily. But spirit and passion kept Skipton in the game as the better side for an hour. This performance, along with last two matches of the season, must become the stepping stone for next season. With a full compliment of players, this Skipton side should be able to build on the potential shown in fits and starts and look to challenge for promotion once again.