Ripon RUFC’s head coach Richard Dixon challenged his squad to get fitter over the Christmas break after a punishing 46-5 defeat to Sheffield Medics on Saturday.
The heavy defeat ensured Ripon end the year second-bottom of Yorkshire Two and eight points adrift of relegation safety.
Any thoughts Ripon had of sustaining their improved form were dashed on the Sheffield University Playing Fields as the young, fit Medics demonstrated their promotion credentials.
Ripon started well by keeping play tight within the forwards and made good ground through multi phase rugby.
But indiscipline gave the hosts a number of penalties and provided the momentum they needed to find their normal groove.
The home side’s pressure told early on and a penalty goal after five minutes gave the Medics a three point lead.
From then on it was always going to be a game of trying to stop the youngsters from using their superior speed and fitness.
However, Ripon failed in this aspect and gave the ball away too cheaply, which resulted in the Medics scoring three tries in quick succession.
The scores were all executed with precision and pace.
Ripon played at a high tempo and the pace of the game at the breakdown meant the penalty count in both directions was high.
There were however, no opportunities for Ripon to take the initiative or get on the scoreboard.
The second half saw Ripon make early replacements, bringing on John Paul Coyne and flanker Callum Findlay to inject pace and aggression.
The early exchanges saw a repeat of Ripon’s first half opening performance, relying on the strength of the forwards to batter the opposition.
Again the home team were quick to pounce on any opportunities and a simple handling error by the visitors was cruelly punished by the Medics’ fourth try.
Ripon didn’t give up the chase at this point and through some good forward and back interplay set themselves deep into the Sheffield half.
From a fast ruck, quick ball by Scott McAra to Ashley Rio set the centres away breaking through the Sheffield line to put winger Ben James in for an unconverted try at the corner.
The fitness of the Sheffield team then started to tell and in the last 10 minutes they scored three more well-worked tries.
Dixon said: “We were just not good enough and did not take care of the ball and with a young and skilful team like Sheffield they will punish loose play.”
Ripon are next in action in Yorkshire Two at home to Hullensians on January 4, when the Blues will be look to avenge their heaviest defeat of the season (68-8) from the away leg in September.
“We now have the Christmas break to work on our own fitness and get ourselves ready for the New Year and the second half of the season,” added Dixon.