Ripon Rugby Club’s are clinging on to survival hope in Yorkshire Two despite their relegation being sealed.
The Blues suffered a devastating 16-12 loss at Barnsley in their penultimate match of the season on Saturday.
Barnsley stole the victory in the final ten minutes to leave Ripon doomed, trailing third-placed Roudhegians by an insurmountable 12 points.
However, their future in Yorkshire Two could hinge on two decisions to be made away from the field of play.
Middlesbrough-based outfit Acklam have been relegated from Yorkshire One and it has yet to be decided whether they will head down one division, or move across to the Durham and Northumberland Two.
Should they move, the league may offer Ripon a reprieve and relegate just one team into Yorkshire Three.
It is also believed ninth-placed Knottingley are subject to disciplinary action by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) which could move them into the relegation reckoning.
Ripon’s first team manager Bob Champion said: “There is as you might imagine much conjecture and speculation, but little in the way of hard facts.
“We continue to play each game as if it means something and hope that fate smiles on us.”
Ripon travel to Roundhegians in their final match of the season this Saturday, and Champion said the players would continue to battle like they did against Barnsley.
The Mallorie Parkers gave a battering to Barnsley’s defence during the first period, but they failed to get on the scoreboard.
Barnsley defended robustly and twice kicked penalty goals to lead 6-0 into the turnaround.
After the break, Ripon pressed hard and within seconds were hammering at the Barnsley line to score.
A second five-metre scrum saw a quick pick from Adam Scott Paul, who fed Scott McAra to put veteran winger Mark Rees into the corner. McAra added the conversion with a mighty effort from the touchline.
The hosts sneaked in front again with another penalty goal. Undeterred, Ripon scored a second try within moments of a restart.
Joe Duffield was on the receiving end of a gifted pass from James Potter to run through for a converted score.
However with just under 10 minutes to go, Barnsley delivered a killer blow to score in front of the posts.
Champion added: “Unfortunately, whether it was pressure, or nerves, still too many scoring passes went awry.
“Simple unforced errors prevented us from converting their domination of the game into match winning points.”
“We will travel to North Leeds next Saturday, intending to finish the Yorkshire Division Two season with a bang.”