Tarleton First XV’s last home match of the season was against Upper Eden and with four of the five Skofic Brothers already on the way to Slovenia for, hopefully, their international debuts against Bulgaria this coming Saturday it was a much changed side that took the field.
However, it was Tarleton that applied the early pressure and from a good kick by Elliot Burton the Upper Eden full-back was put under pressure and he could only clear the ball about seven metres from the try line.
From the line out the ball was whipped across the back line and Will Fell scored in the corner. Elliot added the extras and Tarleton were 7-0 ahead.
Upper Eden came straight back from the re-start and a combination of their big driving forwards and a couple of ‘large’ fast backs saw Tarleton putting in a lot of defensive tackles.
The pressure told in the end and Upper Eden scored an unconverted try to bring the score to 7-5.
Tarleton played some good phased rugby for the next 10 minutes and were awarded a penalty in Upper Eden's 22 but this was pulled wide of the upright. Tarleton seemed to be ‘bossing’ the game in the loose too and a great interception and break by Tom Eckersley saw the ball passed out wide for Jack Kelly to exploit the gap created and score a good try to increase the lead to 12-5.
Jack Skofic playing at full-back had several good runs through the game and from a couple of these Tarleton should have scored as the ball went out wide but a pass behind the advancing winger and then an interception by an Upper Eden centre led to Upper Eden scoring the equalising try.
With five minutes to go Tarleton were still applying pressure and they were awarded a penalty for Upper Eden ‘killing the ball’ and this was quickly taken and shipped to the charging Kelly who again found a gap to score his second try, Elliot added the extras and Tarleton went in at half-time 19-12 up.
The second half saw Upper Eden in the ascendancy as they now had the wind behind them and their No.10 started to control the game with his boot.
From several line outs Tarleton managed to clear the danger but despite winning another on their own throw the ball was lost in the resulting maul and Upper Eden’s pacey No. 8 picked up and crashed over under the posts, the kick was good and the scores were now level at 19-19.
Upper Eden continued with their kicking game and another try resulted 20 minutes into the second half to see them go into the lead for the first time.
Upper Eden won 46-30 with Tarleton having concede more interception tries by playing catch up rugby.
However, they had scored four tries and therefore gained the bonus point that secures their ninth place in the league.
Their last match is away to Whitehaven and depending on this result and the matches below them they could end the season safe in either eighth, ninth or tenth place in the league.
Survival at a higher level was always the target for the Firsts this season and they have achieved this and know that they could have probably done slightly better.
They now need to start building for next season with the added advantage that they now know what they are up against and how the opposition teams play their game.
The Seconds kept their championship hopes alive with a 13-12 win over Aspull First XV in a bruising encounter that sets up a decider against Wigan away next week.
A travelling contingent of Tarleton supporters will be going to this match hoping to see a victory.
Tarleton will have to be at the top of their game and play controlled 15 man rugby if they are to come away with the silverware but are more than capable of ending the season as champions.