It was chastening afternoon once again for the First XV, who were dealt a hefty 39-12 defeat by an efficient Edinburgh on 22 Acres.
The Black and Gold, cut adrift at the bottom of Premier North B, are yet to taste victory in the league this season. Today was their eleventh successive defeat in this division and they are saddled with a negative points difference of 290.
It has been a humbling experience for the team, who appear devoid of confidence at this moment in time. Captain Thom Arnott has preached patience all season long, insisting his side have what it takes to win games at this level. His charges are yet to repay him with victory, as three games remain and relegation a long-held formality.
There have been flashes of potential from York, pushing Durham and Manchester all the way and beating Leicester in the BUCS trophy. Against Edinburgh on Wednesday, unfortunately, they were lacklustre at the breakdown and unable to execute their plays in the backline.
In the opening quarter, the home side competed well at the set piece and kept Edinburgh out of their territory. They won a scrummage against the head and, at line-out time, Rob Stewart was generally accurate and James Peacock in the second row begun to get his timing right. However, from the immediate outset, there were fissures and York’s drift defence looked vulnerable to say the least.
With around twenty minutes on the clock, hooker Stewart was controversially sin-binned for a dump tackle. This was a turning point and the Black and Gold gradually begun to loose their foothold in the game from this moment onwards. Edinburgh drew a penalty after a ruck in front of the posts and slotted a penalty to open the scoring.
After 27 minutes, an expertly crafted cross-field kick from the visiting fly half found his alert left winger, who rode the tackle of Archie Cable and stretched for the line. The try was converted for 10-0.
York had a couple of chances but were chronically deficient of composure when they approached the tryline. Mark Robson made a promising break, although as the ball was transferred left, Edinburgh executed a turnover to kill the attack stone dead.
As half-time crept up, the visitors decided to extend their lead. Their scrum-half took a quick tap and go penalty and incited an attack that York simply never caught up with. The defence didn’t drift across with the required speed, and their left winger secured his brace with the simple task of scoring from 15 metres. It was 17-0 at half-time.
After the break, as Scots raided down the right it appeared that their full-back had fumbled a pass just 10 metres from the line. Frustratingly, it ricocheted off his knee and into the in-goal area, a moment symptomatic of York’s fortunes at present. An Edinburgh back was quickest to the loose ball to touch down, a try which was subsequently converted for 24-0.
The away team were excellent at drawing their hosts into attacking positions, only to draw a penalty or snatch a turnover. They turned defence into attack once again, as a second row drew two defenders to set their quicksilver outside centre free, thirty metres out with the try line at his mercy. At 29-0, the Black and Gold were dead and buried.
After Edinburgh’s loose-head prop was yellow carded, captain and number eight Thom Arnott crossed the line to score a consolation try. This felt well deserved after a difficult season; Arnott makes a lot of tackles and leads by example throughout- it was pleasing to see him touch down.
At twenty-two the gap seemed insurmountable and it was extended in the blink of an eye. One of Edinburgh’s replacements scored a try to make it 34, and a fluid move down the left hand side saw the score ascend to 39-7.
Left winger Rob Prior scored York’s second try, which was converted, to make it 39-14 and a more respectable scoreline.
It seemed inconceivable that Edinburgh are in fact second bottom of this division. One needs no more evidence as to just how competitive the league is. York, on the other hand, are left to lick their wounds. It can only get better for the Black and Gold, and they will take the lessons they have learned from this season into next year when they hope to bounce back at the first attempt.
York: Thompson, Cable, Durno, Barton, Prior, Robson, Williams; Burd, Stewart, Mercer; Davey, Peacock; Taylor, Treanor, Arnott (c)
Man of the Match: Sam Durno