A last gasp try denied Ripon RUFC a first victory of the season in a narrow defeat at promotion hopefuls Barnsley 19-13 on Saturday.
Barnsley were one of the top teams in Yorkshire Two last season but a gritty performance from a youthful Blues squad almost caused a shock result.
Ripon led up to the final embers of the match but injuries to Joe Duffield and Dave Robinson allowed the South Yorkshire side to turn the momentum.
Ripon team manager Bob Champion said: “It was definitely a day on which boys became men and men stepped up to be counted, in a gritty and determined display of team play.”
The first 10 minutes saw both sides experimenting. Barnsley used their blind side flanker and full back to good effect and Ripon trying to push out wide.
At 15 minutes the break came when a fumble by Barnsley, pressing at the Ripon 22 metre line, saw Ben Buckley hack the ball downfield.
Not satisfied with the simple pick up at 10 metres out, Buckley opted for the additional grubber forward, which actually went sideways, allowing the opposition to catch up.
Fleeter of foot, Buckley however made no mistake with the next opportunity to pick up the ball and touched down for Ripon’s opening try. Guy Watkinson made no mistake of the conversion.
The peace was shattered five minutes later, when a poorly executed clearance kick found the home left wing in space, who danced through three tackles to open the scoring for Barnsley, the conversion attempt going wide.
Barnsley continued to press and narrowly missed a penalty goal attempt at 27 minutes.
Ripon had the lion’s share of possession and pushed further into the lead with a Watkinson penalty at 35 minutes.
Barnsley however had the last laugh and in the last play of the half, kicked a penalty goal to make the score 10-8 at half time.
The second half was a more open affair, with both sides running through their options.
Watkinson added a further penalty goal for Ripon and Barnsley edged up the scoreboard with a well taken drop goal from a scrum on the Ripon 22 and then a further penalty goal.
Ripon fought back and held the home side in their own 22 metre area for much of the middle of the half.
Two scoring opportunities however went awry for Ripon and that pretty much sealed the fate of the game.
A scrum five metres from the Barnsley line, with home put in, was rich pickings for the Ripon pack, boosted by the late entry of prop Mark Sadler.
Shunting the home side backwards, the ball got carried over by their number eightfor a safety touch down by the full back.
The referee however, saw a Ripon knock on somewhere and awarded a drop out.
Momentarily relieved, Barnsley didn’t yet capitalise and found themselves back on their own line for a five metre scrum, with a Ripon put in.
Forward went the scrum but any hope of scoring from the opportunity was dashed by a fumble at the base, which saw the Barnsley pack regroup to clear their lines.
And the injuries to influential full back Duffield and workhorse flanker Robinson saw Ripon’s momentum falter and allowed Barnsley in for a last gasp try before the final whistle.
Champion said Ripon will take heart from the all-round team performance and losing bonus point gained.
He added: “Despite a slightly shaky scrum at first, Ripon showed creativity with the ball, incredible pace in attack and dogged determination in defence.
“Barnsley sought to press home a weight advantage in the forwards, but didn’t really succeed and their backs just didn’t get going until late in the second half.”
Ripon are on their travels again this Saturday with a trip to Keighley (3pm), who lost their opening home match against early frontrunners West Leeds.