Harrogate Pythons ended 2016 with a 27-17 defeat to Aireborough in Yorkshire Three.
In a game played at Ripon RUFC due to the unavailability of the Pythons’ pitch at Pennypot, the visitors immediately had their hosts under intense pressure.
The home side replied with some ferocious defensive work and Ivan Drane turned over the ball on his own line, but was tackled just as he attempted to clear.
Aire recycled possession and went wide for their winger to open the scoring after 15 minutes.
More away pressure led to an attacking line-out just five metres out, and following a successful catch and drive, Aire moved 10-0 ahead.
A yellow card for the visitors’ fly-half then reduced the Leeds side to 14 men and the Pythons took advantage to open their account.
Rob Lunn disrupted an Aire line-out and Dan Shortman kicked through and touched down for 10-5 just before the half-hour mark.
The away team then hit back with a penalty right in front of the posts and took a 13-5 lead into half-time.
The Pythons began the second period on the front foot, but failed to turn possession into points and were hit with a sucker punch when the ball squirmed out of the side of a home scrum and Aire’s alert number nine picked up and scored under the posts for 20-5.
From a more successful scrum on the visitors’ 22, Drane then gave his side hope when he broke down the blind side to touch down in the corner.
And Harrogate moved to within three points in the 76th minute when Drane took a quick tap-penalty and fed Lunn who crashed over, Ross Fallenstein converting for 20-17.
Sensing a chance to go on and snatch victory, the Pythons attempted to run the ball from deep, only to lose possession to the Aire fly-half who touched down to end the game as a contest.