Hero Rio steers Ripon to win

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Overjoyed Ripon RUFC head coach Richard Dixon saluted his team for gritting their teeth and producing a first win of the campaign.

Australian Ashley Rio was Ripon’s hero as he slotted over a late 40-metre penalty to beat Knottingley 10-9 away on Saturday.

Dan Humphreys had earlier powered over for Dixon’s men, converted by Rio.

Ripon’s stout defence stopped the hosts running in a try, the first time an opposition has failed to break through this season.

“That’s the most pleasing thing,” said Dixon.

“To a man, we defended as if our lives depended on it.”

The win ended a run of six straight losses, but Ripon remain second-bottom in Yorkshire Two above whipping boys Baildon.

For the first 25 minutes neither side entered the opposition’s 22 metre area.

Stout defence by the home side saw many of Ripon’s probing attacks stifled but they finally broke the deadlock with a strong driving maul and close support play from Humphreys.

Knottingley responded with a penalty just before half time, and the low score reflected the game’s intensity of the game.

Captain Adam Scott-Paul was forced off with a rib injury as Ripon radically shook up their pack.

Slowly the hosts brought themselves back into the game after the restart with a series of attacking phases.

But strong defensive organisation by the visitors kept them at bay.

Knottingley crossed Ripon’s line twice, but failed to touch down. The relentless pressure showed and after two further penalty goals, Knottingley edged into the lead.

Ripon intensified their efforts and with one minute to go, Rio was gifted a dream penalty opportunity which he struck perfectly to nudge over the winning line

Dixon added: “It was a proper team performance.

“It’s not an easy place to go.

“The squad that we took fronted up. You could tell beforehand we were up for it.”

In damp, windy conditions it was never going to be a day for festival rugby, and the hard slog earned Ripon a deserved victory.

Dixon pinpointed prop Will Champion for special praised after the 18-year-old shone at both loose-head and tight-head prop.

The coach said: “That’s a part of his front row education that hew ill look back on very fondly.

“You can’t afford to go backwards in the scrum at any level in rugby, and we didn’t.

“He really did a great job for us.”

Ripon host sixth-placed West Park Leeds at Mallorie Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).

Scott-Paul faces a late fitness test.

“With some of the performances on Saturday, there will be some difficult selection decisions to make,” added Dixon.

“It’s nice to have genuine competition for places. It’s something that’s not always been something we have had.”