Ripon RUFC have kept their Yorkshire Two status – but only by the skin of their teeth.
A losing bonus point in Saturday’s home clash to Roundhegians was enough to just stay above the relegation parapet, as student outfit Sheffield Medicals dropped into Yorkshire Three.
Only a remarkable turnaround of events would have seen Ripon relegated.
However, with the Medics victorious in their final game of the campaign, the unlikely outcome had been on the cards.
But Ian Hassall’s Blues bravely held out against a robust Roundhedians to pick up the all important point in losing 21-18.
“Ripon played with passion, pride and gusto,” said first team manager Bob Champion.
“The crowd in turn were supportive, encouraging and buoyed the spirit of the team throughout.”
Aiming to play in a way that exploited any scoring potential, Ripon took the lead within eight minutes with two well struck penalty goals by Tom Leeming.
An opportunity for the visitors to get on the scoreboard from a rare visit into the Ripon half saw a missed penalty attempt at around the 12 minute mark. Then followed a period of sustained pressure by Roundhegians, seeking to keep in touch with the home line and at 20 minutes a move that went from one side of the pitch the other, saw Ben Buckley put in a try saving tackle in the corner.
At 24 minutes and running out of defensive options Ripon conceded a penalty and lost Spilman to a yellow card, which allowed the visitors to open their scoring with a penalty.
A missed penalty attempt from Leeming followed but undeterred Ripon scored on the stroke of the break with Ben Buckley dashing over from Tom Newby’s inital break.
Spilman’s second yellow saw him sent off early in the second half, and from the resultant penalty, Round’ doubled their contribution.
But with their backs against the wall, Ripon responded with a breakaway try as Joe Rowntree exploited the blind side to scamper over. Two successive yellow cards to the visitors evened up the player deficit for pretty much the rest of the normal playing time of the half.
Ripon looked in control of their fortunes, but, in dramatic fashion, they conceded two last-gasp tries to put their survival in doubt.
The scores led to a nail-biting finale for the Mallorie Parkers as a further try would relegate them.
But the referee’s final whistle came in the nick of time.
“What looked at half time to be a relatively achievable bonus point victory, turned into a ‘just enough to get by’ defeat,” added Champion.
“Securing our place in Yorkshire Division Two will give the first XV squad the launch-pad it desperately needs to take its playing fortunes out of the drop zone and into contention for better things next season.”