Ripon rugby coach Ian Hassall was encouraged by his side’s playing style despite falling just short of victory at home to Keighley on Saturday.
Ripon took a losing bonus point out of the Yorkshire Two contest, but gave up a six point lead as they lost 12-9 against the sixth-placed opponents.
Tom Leeming stroked over all of Ripon’s points, but a late unconverted try gave the West Yorkshire visitors victory.
Having found wins difficult to come by this season, Ripon have been plunged into the relegation dogfight alongside fellow strugglers Roudhegians, Sheffield Medicals and Leeds Medics and Dentists.
However, head coach Hassall has found room to be optimistic despite the struggles as performances continue to improve.
Hassall had five 18-year-olds in his Blues squad against Keighley, and he believes that shows the future is bright at Mallorie Park.
He said: “If you look at the results, it looks like it’s going badly. But we are starting to play some rugby.
“It’s a young squad that I think will come into its own.
“When we go into the last section of the season, we will get stronger. It’s starting to show already and Saturday was a casing point.
“I am optimistic that we can stay in this league with a young side, and that would look good for the future.”
Keighley pegged Ripon back early on in Saturday’s contest, however, it was the Blues who took the lead when gained possession.
The score came as a penalty chance arose on 11 minutes and Leeming took the three points with a kick that skimmed the crossbar.
After a spell of end to end play nearing half time, Ripon seemed to be gaining the advantage. On 33 minutes, a Keighley player was yellow carded for killing the ball and Leeming slotted a further penalty goal.
The second half restart saw Keighley storm out of the blocks and from a penalty kick to the corner, they scored a converted try with a forwards drive.
At the 65 minute mark, a Keighley indiscretion gave Leeming the chance to put Ripon in the lead but his kick didn’t have the legs.
However, he made up for the miss on 70 minutes to put Ripon in front with another penalty opportunity.
Ripon forced a number of Keighley defensive errors from the ensuing restart, but the opposition defence held out against two catch and drives.
Eventually, Keighley cleared their lines and unleashed an onslaught onto the Ripon line. And the cruel final blow was delivered to Ripon with less than three minutes left on the clock.
Following Andy Williamson’s sin-binning, Keighley took a line out and drove over for a punishing unconverted try.
“I have told the players to forget the results and concentrate on the performance they put in,” said Hassall.
“If they play well, it takes a better side to beat you. The frustrating thing about Saturday was that Keighley weren’t the better side.”
Ripon are without a league game this weekend, and have arranged a friendly against Yorkshire One side Yarnbury at Mallorie Park. Hassall will experiment with his squad and give opportunities for second and third team members.