The Pilgrims had travelled to Scarborough only a few short weeks ago and were soundly beaten despite valiant efforts by all. But, on Saturday, the Pilgrims started as favourites after convincingly topping their East Yorkshire Merit League, and having home advantage against fourth-placed Scarborough .
With changes to the substitution rules for this semi-final, and having a squad of 23 to choose from but only five changes available, captain Chris Mudd had a difficult task as each squad member was undoubtedly deserving of a place in the starting XV, having played with heart and soul all season.
Scarborough won the toss and elected to play into the wind, relying on their young backs’ ability to attack from deep, a tactic that saw them triumph in the previous encounter.
The Pilgrims went on the offensive immediately, rejecting an opportunity in favour of a catch and drive lineout in the opposition 22. Several phases of forwards thundering at the try line finally resulted in space for the rampaging Kenny Strangeway to score, with Lee Whitaker opening his kicking account.
The restart was caught smartly by Pocklington with Jack Bond taking a pop pass and scampering through the middle with giant lock Adam Pannett in support.
Instinctive kicking from code breaking Joe Richardson gave the Pilgrims time to set sail for another early attack, with flying wing Mike Kemp hunting down his opposite number to effect an error under pressure.
The Pilgrims front row has been solid all season, regardless of the combination in play, with Danny Mudd, Alex Brown and Glen O’Hara getting the nod on this occasion.
Their solid platform allowed Brown to once again go fishing into the Scarborough second row to persistently bring back ball against the head.
Bond’s speed and agility combined nicely with the raw power of James Morton to allow the big man a sniff of the try line, and this season that is all he has needed.
Morton has been a revelation at flanker with gargantuan runs trampling all before him. His first of two tries was once again an example of raw power.
Whitaker duly obliged with his second conversion and followed it shortly afterwards with a penalty to keep the scoreboard moving.
Scarborough found some form when the Pilgrims appeared to take their foot off the gas, allowing a score out wide, but the home side were soon back in it with Morton grabbing his second from a lineout, first secured by Bond in full flight, smuggled from the tenacious Glen O’Hara to skipper Mudd who handed to Morton for an easy dive over the line.
Half time saw the wind die down and Scarborough’s perceived second half advantage diminish, but that did not dampen their spirits, bringing several replacements into the fray to add zest to their attack - a tactic that worked from the off with a finely taken try out wide.
With the score standing now at 26-12 there was still very much all to play for and the Pilgrims too made three switches, all for injured personnel. Whitaker was replaced by pocket dynamo Niall Quinn, Alex Brown made way for Danny Mudd switching to hooker and Wayne Grainger stepping in at loosehead. Jack Bond was forced out of the game too with a dead leg, giving Pilgrim stalwart Dan Elvidge a run out.
The fantastic Rob Jackson made way for Tom Rhodes at scrum half, leaving the ebullient youngster big shoes to fill as Jackson, like a fine wine, gets better with age.
Elvidge’s entrance gave the Pilgrims a much-needed boost as he set off on the first of several barnstorming runs, ripping apart the opposition’s defence.
His influence gave the home side good ball for the backs to move wide and Strangeway thundered over in the corner only to be belatedly called foot in touch by the away team’s linesman.
The resultant lineout was stolen by Mark Rogers, who gave the away team a torrid time, frequently defying gravity like a soaring eagle such was the majesty in his play. Richardson received the ball and almost telepathically chipped for Rob Parsons to run onto and score a fantastic try only to be adjudged offside.
Parsons and Mike Hodgson have built a great partnership in the centres since Parsons’ return to Pocklington in the New Year and the pair combined well, creating space in the away 22 to allow Strangeway safe passage for his second try.
Nerves then seemed to hit the home side, making several unforced errors and losing shape and discipline; Scarborough seized on this with a try to bring their score to 19 and lift their spirits, leaving the Pilgrims defending frantically with last line of defence, Strangeway, saving an almost certain try at full stretch.
The Pilgrims performance in the second half was completed by Dan Elvidge, unstoppable from 15 metres out, and a settling penalty kick from Quinn which pushed the score to 39-19 to the Pilgrims.
Despite Scarborough’s best efforts, they could not puncture through the home defence with every player chasing, tackling and rucking as if their life depended on it.
The Pilgrims’ successful season so far has only been achieved by working together as a squad and special thanks goes to those who were unable to partake on the pitch, their continued support is appreciated and recognised by all.