Pontefract RUFC agonisingly missed out on the Yorkshire Shield final after losing to Bridlington in extra-time in a thrilling semi at Moor Lane.
Up against Yorkshire One leaders, the Yorkshire Two promotion contenders put in a magnificent and relentless challenge to draw 20-20 after 80 minutes only to run out of steam in extra-time to eventually lose 41-25.
From the kick-off Bridlington engaged their big pack to create an attacking platform and at the first scrum gained the initiative at the collapse of the front row, Pontefract being penalised. Gareth Roberts kicked the penalty goal for early points for the visitors.
The home side replied and went close with a deep and high kick from Glen Boyd which Brid’s full-back initially fumbled, but the support scrambled to clear. Scrum-half Callum Watts getting half a chance. Craig Fawcett getting on the end of a long pass only to be squeezed into touch were early positives for Ponte.
A high tackle gave the initiative back to the visitors. From the kick to touch and subsequent line-out the visitors worked a set move for number six Callum Sanderson to dart through a gap in the defence for a try that went unconverted.
Another penalty led to another try for Brid as their big pack drove to the corner for Sanderson to score his second try.
Pontefract captain Fawcett rallied the team and fly-half Boyd kicked play back into the Brid half. Wing Stewart Sanderson found space, but the pass to him was on his bootstraps. Lock Andy Lund was then held up as Ponte drove to the line.
Sanderson was tackled into touch just short of the line and the visitors were hanging on until finally breached when Watts moved the ball on, Boyd put in a telling pass and Liam Kay came into the line to go over for a try that made it 13-5 at half-time.
The second half saw cautious play as both sides kicked back and forth. But Ponte scored the best try of the game as Niall Sandwith took the ball off the top, hooker Jonny Hill carried it forward with Boyd continuing the play then selling a mis move to go over for another unconverted try.
An offside decision then gave Liam Kay a chance to kick a goal that tied the scores up at 13-13.
Ponte were having their best spell, but a mix-up in play let Brid off the hook. Jonny Hill was yellow carded for a high tackle and the visitors went for the scrum, scoring through Jamie Martin.
The conversion put Brid seven points ahead, but Ponte kept going and after Hill returned they were rewarded.
Matthew Bacon took the ball on, prop Rob Scholey held onto the ball and the hosts went again, lock Will Story going over the line only to be rolled over and held up. The forwards maintained possession, Boyd put the pass out and Fawcett crashed over the line for a try that was converted by Kay to level it up again.
It stayed 20-20 to the final whistle, with the gripping semi-final going into extra-time.
First blood went to Brid as they used their big pack on slippy ground to get the push over try, number eight Jimmy Thompson claiming the try which was goaled.
Again Ponte rallied as Tadiwa Nyanjowa turned the ball over and they attacked the flanks, Fawcett going in for a try that could not be converted. But a fumble from the restart handed the initiative back to Brid and centre Martin took a neat inside pass to score under the posts.
Although Pontefract kept at it their desperate measures did not get the result and eventually the visitors saw the space to put in a cross kick that led to the final try.
It was a terrific game for players and spectators with Pontefract refusing to roll over. Overall they could be proud of their efforts and it is back to the league now with an important game at home to fourth-placed Roundhegians this Saturday (3pm). Ponte currently stand in third, eight points behind second-placed Old Rishworthians with four fixtures remaining.