It was another case of so near but yet so far for Rishworthians as once again a potential victory slipped away in a 19-13 defeat at Middlesbrough yesterday.
With five regular starters missing – including both props – it was always going to be a tough ask, but the players who stepped in all staked a claim for inclusion in the future with a strong performance.
Before the Yorkshire One game started there was a minute’s applause for fellow player, 19-year-old Lewis Hilton, who died tragically from meningitis a week ago.
It seemed to inspire Rishworthians and they started the game strongly. They kept the pressure up for most of the game, with Middlesbrough’s points coming from breakouts against the run of play.
While it seemed the visitors might struggle in the pack, the opposite was true with great performances from three young players drafted in – Harry Robinson in the back row, lock James McHugh and Kris Hattam, a very late replacement in the front row.
The game started with a great break by Sam Nunn, who opened on the wing and later went to centre, and who was the pick of the Rishworthian backs.
Under pressure Middlesbrough got the first score, however, when a clever kick found impressive right wing Rhys Kilbride, who raced 60 yards for a converted try.
Despite the score the pressure was maintained and clever kicks from stand-off Josh Kelly, fullback Luke Flanagan and scrum half Ed Cockroft all put Rishworthians into strong positions.
One Kelly kick found space and Nunn was able to race through gather the ball and score an unconverted try.
The home side hit back and tried to force their way over, but were held up. A penalty kick was cleverly plucked from the air by Nunn near his own line to prevent it going into touch.
Middlesbrough broke out again from Rishworthian pressure, with Kilbride bursting through on the wing to run half the length of the pitch and score his second converted try.
Centre Doug Heseltine was through after a Middlebrough infringement only for the referee to blow too soon and award Rishworthians a penalty.
Just before the break, Kelly, who had already been unsuccessful with a couple of attempts, made it 14–8 with a penalty.
The visitors were strong in the second half, with inspiring performances from skipper Fraser Swarbrooke and player coach Chris Stone.
But when the home side did manage to get near the visitors’ line they got a scrambled unconverted try.
From then it was all Rishworthians, with some exciting moves among the forwards and the backs, especially from Nunn and replacement Kurt Sutcliffe.
Eventually they won a lineout near the home line and drove over in the corner with No 8 Jack Andrews getting the touchdown for an unconverted try.
They kept pressurising the home line and almost got over with a couple of pick and go attempts, prop Phil Kershaw coming closest.
They should perhaps have continued with those attempts but instead chose to pass it out and were driven back. Time ran out as the pressure was maintained and all they had to show for it was a losing bonus point.