Old Rishworthians surrendered a 15-point lead as they were beaten 37-24 at home by Yorkshire Two title favourites Moortown yesterday.
Chris Stone’s side, on a high after a fine win at Pontefract the previous week, looked in control of the top-of-the-table game when three converted tries gave them a 21-6 lead approaching half time in benign conditions at Copley.
However, individual errors led to a general malaise in their play and a Leeds side with a sprinkling of overseas players took full advantage to make it six wins out of six this season.
Rishworthians were even denied two bonus points at the death when an indecisive referee eventually ruled that home No 8 and star man Nick Faulkner had been unable to ground the ball for a try under the posts.
A 5-0 points outcome in favour of the visitors was a bitter pill to swallow for Rishworthians and assistant coach Tom Andrews knows his side must get out of their habit of blowing hot and cold during games.
“We have got to try to improve and play for 80 minutes,” he said.
“I am still confident that we could go there (to Moortown) and get a result at the end of the season and that we can impose ourselves on the top two.
“The lads have got to dig in now and make sure there is no slump for three or four games.”
Rishworthians, looking to make it five wins on the bounce, opened with some text book rugby.
They regained possession from Josh Kelly’s kick off and seconds later Faulkner, playing at No 8 in the absence of James Clarke, had rolled out of tackles to score wide on the left. Kelly converted.
Scrum half Ed Cockcroft made a great clearance from the restart and then backed up Faulkner’s rampaging break down the middle to dive between the posts on 10 minutes for another seven-pointer.
Moortown stand-off Dion Frazier replied with 14th and 18th minute penalties to make it 14-6 but Rishworthians’ pack were shunting their opposite numbers backwards at the scrums and a third converted try for the hosts followed on 24 minutes.
Centre Sam Nunn was beaten by the bounce as he chipped through but it mattered little, Faulkner shoving off three tacklers following a scrum five metres out.
Having landed his third conversion, Kelly then missed with a drop goal attempt.
Moortown were having some success at the breakdown and picking up penalties. They gained a crucial try two minutes before the break when open side Alex Smith forced his way over. Frazier’s kick made it 21-13.
Rishworthians re-established control in the first 10 minutes of the second half and were rewarded with a Kelly drop goal plus a yellow card for visiting winger Mark Shires.
A missed Kelly penalty marked a turning point in his and the team’s performance.
The 14-man visitors suddenly sensed an opportunity and Frazier showed his strength to cross for a 59th minute try which he converted to make it 24-20.
Rishworthians were now losing their own lineout ball and wilting in the face of Moortown’s power play.
Moortown hit the front on 66 minutes when the referee decided Derek Liva Soqeta had managed to get the ball down in a crowd of players, Frazier converting.
The rampant visitors then drove Rishworthians off the ball at a ruck and hacked the ball over the try line. The kicker was obstructed but a teammate got there first.
Rishworthians argued that the ball had run dead before being touched down and the referee eventually agreed but then decided to award a penalty try.
Frazier converted and added a penalty to move Moortown out into a 37-24 lead.
Rishworthians belatedly came to life again and pressed hard from penalties and scrums near the try line but the referee’s final decision, which denied them a four-try bonus point and a likely losing bonus point, left them deflated.