Ripon failed to capitalise on five opposition yellows cards in slipping to a second defeat on the bounce against Castleford on Saturday.
In a closely fought contest Ripon will be left to bemoan the lengthy periods of play during which significant numbers of the opposition weren’t playing.
Ripon kicked off to the visitors and harassed their reception to the extent that there looked like a real opportunity to dominate from the start. Castleford however composed themselves and held resolute, forcing a penalty for a Ripon player holding on in the tackle.
Only three minutes into the game the penalty kick to touch from the Castleford Number 10 flew downfield and should have rung alarm bells as to his distance capability.
The kick took the visitors up to the Ripon 22 metre line and their line-out was won comfortably enough for the ensuing drive to swing in many directions before their Number 8 crashed over for an unconverted try to get the scoreboard into action.
Ripon fought back from the restart to move the ball through several phases and release the speedy back division as soon as possible. Leeming and Buckley counter attacked well and defensively the whole team stepped up to shut out the opposition. At 12 minutes, Ripon were awarded a penalty, which Hooks kicked long into touch.
The line-out saw a clean take from Oates and a mini drive to offset the opposition. Once in the backs, the play drifted right, left and then back again, before Rob Nicholson took the credit for touching down from the final drive over the line to even the scores. Hooks floated the conversion in.
At 19 minutes, a Castleford attacking kick was recovered by Nicholson allowing Ripon to counter through several hands, before Oates made a dashing break up the middle.
His attempts to make the ball available were stifled by the defence and Hooks stepped up to kick the penalty goal to increase Ripon’s lead.
From there, play exchanged hands several times, with Castleford just edging the scrum contest to restrict Ripon’s attacking options.
From a probing kick from the visitors, Ripon sought to rebuild from defence. A line-out won by Britton, saw the home forwards drive sufficiently to create a decent angle for the touch kick. The forwards however, retained possession for too long before releasing a ball for Tombling to clear.
The hastily attempted kick was charged down and let in the Castleford Inside Centre to nudge them in front again. The conversion was kicked just wide of the woodwork.
The exchanges for the rest of the half were fairly even apart from the last ten minutes being spent with only 12 players on the Castleford side.
Ripon benefitted marginally from the power play with two penalty kicks from Hooks, but Castleford kept themselves in the game, with a late penalty goal to end the half ahead 13 – 15.
The second half took a similar tone. Ripon tried attacking out wide but were stifled by a well organised drift defence.
The visitors did the same, but made it count by playing their options well and scoring a further converted try and two penalty goals, both from around the 40 metre mark. At this stage Castleford looked like they were doing more than enough to win the game.
Ripon continued to try and exploit an increasingly steadying scrum and well-functioning line-out with the hope of increasing their attacking potential, but in most cases the Castleford defence held firm.
Late on, Ripon really grasped the urgency of the situation and started picking up the pace. Further tries came from Davin Jones, cutting a brilliant line from his wing to the opposite side, converted by Hooks and Jake McRobert.
The final few minutes of the game presented the home side with a number of penalty opportunities that weren’t converted and left Ripon ruing their second loss on the spin.
It was a result that leaves Ripon sitting in eighth place with 16 points.