Although ultimately well beaten a mix and match Skipton side provided an unexpected level of resistance and defiance in this the final game of the 2012/2013 season.
West Park hit the ground running. Skipton knocked on from the kick off. The ball was moved wide from the scrum on the 22 and when the ruck formed skipper John Fletcher powered through from the back for the opening score.
Skipton responded with an Alex Naylor penalty from inside the 22 but all the early pressure and possession belonged to the hosts. A long Andy Cromack kick took play back to the away 22.
The home forwards pressurised the defence, Ollie Trace snapping up an unfortunate misplaced pass to race between the posts on ten minutes before adding the second of his four conversions. The dynamic young centre went on to have an outstanding game, being directly involved in the build up to three more of the six tries scored on the day.
A Josh Malkinson charge asked questions of the Skipton defence. Centre Brad Pryjmachuk and winger Luke Gamble combined to maintain the momentum. The away defence was stretched and three successive penalties were kicked to the corner. On the third occasion the pack got its drive spot on, No 8 Fletcher peeling off at just the right moment to go in for his twelfth try of the season.
Trace shot through a gap, timing his pass perfectly to send fellow centre Pryjmachuk romping over for the bonus point try just after the twenty minute mark, then tagging on the conversion to bring the score to 26 v 3, scored at better than a point a minute.
Job done, the hosts visibly relaxed, allowing the visitors’ centre to go over for a well taken converted try to narrow the gap.
There was no score for the remainder of the half as the visitors fought back as if their lives depended on it, although a couple of border line forward pass decisions prevented possible further home scores.
More tries did come early in the second half. The home forwards were dominating, twice turning their opponents’ scrum, a feat completely overlooked by the match official.
Phil Davies was having an influential game, the fly half’s penalty taking play to the away 22 where he worked a planned move from the line out with Trace, Cromack racing in for a well worked try.
The fullback’s second try five minutes later was even more impressive, Davies launching the backs again and some great handling culminating in Trace throwing out a long ball to set up the final home score of the game, indeed the season.
Skipton refused to give up, enjoying their best spell in the final quarter. Needless home penalties helped their cause, one of them leading to a close range try.
The home defence was being severely tested, both props Ashley Stead and Dan Stevens pulling off try saving tackles on the line before the visitors scored with another close range effort from the last play of the game for a final score of 38 v 20.
The visitors showed that even if they do go down there is plenty of spirit in their ranks. For the hosts it has been a somewhat frustrating season. Some outstanding performances have been interspersed with some strangely indifferent ones while eight losing bonus points tell their own tale of the ones that got away.
The game was the final one as head coach for Andy Stewart as he steps into the key role of Director of Development for next season as part of the new coaching team of Dave Duxbury, Mark Wilson and Kris Stafford.
The game also saw the final playing appearance of living legend Glen Kilvington, the former first team skipper playing the entire first half at scrum half then returning for a twenty minute cameo at flanker before leaving the field to a well-deserved guard of honour, having made more than 1,000 appearances for the Club over 31 years.
The Club also says farewell to two outstanding back row players, imposing No 8 Ben Griffiths and dynamic flanker Andy Brodie, the latter arguably one of the fastest forwards in Yorkshire rugby. Both are moving south to further their medical careers and we wish them well for the future and thank them for their efforts.
Rugby action continues next weekend as we enter a side in the Leosfest 7’s and with a couple more tournaments to follow, including our own RugbyRocks event on 26th May there is more rugby ahead.