BAILDON may have lost at Yarnbury for the second time in three weeks, but they are hanging their hat on the continued progress of their younger players as they look to 2024-25.

Jake Duxbury’s team followed a 20-15 Counties Two Yorkshire defeat to the third-placed Leeds club with a 27-15 setback in the Papa John’s Community Cup Counties Two North Plate last 16.

Baildon No 8 Dan Cookson, certainly not one of the spring chickens at the age of 37, said: “We lost, but it was still enjoyable and we blooded a lot of the younger players from the second team (six in all) who will hopefully make the step up next season.

“Yarnbury are a big, strong side who know their (artificial) pitch well - they are too quick for an old man like me - but our young lads acquitted themselves well, the game was played in the right spirit and it was refereed well (by Central Yorkshire Society whistler Ian Brooksbank).

“There were some big strong carries by both teams, but we ended up being over their line three times but were held up.

“However, they took their chances, they have some very good backs and made their strike moves well. We relied on our heart and trying to battle through it, but our replacement fly half Ollie Williams did well when he came on, simplifying things in the last 20 minutes, and hopefully he will train more with us and make that step (back) up.

“Also Luke Strauss played well, and it was small margins. We have missed fly half Andy Robinson (who went to Bradford Salem before the season started) big time, and it just a matter of learning different ways to win games.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Luke Strauss was Baildon's best player at Yarnbury on Saturday, and he deserved this second-half try.Luke Strauss was Baildon's best player at Yarnbury on Saturday, and he deserved this second-half try. (Image: Mick Massey.)

“But the lads who have stepped up from the second team, such as Nathan Holmes and Joe Murphy, have done really well, and they will be bigger and stronger and will have more game nous next season.

“We finished fifth this season and I would like to think that we will do better next campaign as we have some exciting players coming through.”

Cookson, who has missed a lot of the season due to health and injury (ankle and knees) issues, is happy to take on a player-coach type role, and thanked coach Andy Pollard for his guidance during what has been a tough campaign personally for the back-rower.

“He has been immense for me,” said Cookson, “and the club have really looked after me.”

The match started with a bevy of knock-ons, but Yarnbury’s defence was steady throughout, although they went behind to a Jake Duxbury penalty in the 18th minute, the ball being headed on the full by a brave spectator after it sailed between the posts.

Baildon’s man-of-the-match Luke Strauss set up the attack with a good run on the left wing, but the hosts responded well three minutes later with a try by former Old Grovian, full back Max Kennedy, after a well-timed inside pass from Josh Bateson.

Fly half Dan Pound added the conversion and, in the 28th minute, a penalty, before Yarnbury took advantage of Baildon being reduced to 14 men with a high-tackle yellow card for Harry Walker, flimsy defence allowing Jeremy Windridge-France to score a try.

Then Cookson and Duxbury were held up over the line in quick succession just before half-time, preserving Yarnbury’s 15-3 advantage.

Both sides granted the other attacking opportunities early in the second half, but Baildon came closest, Will Eastell dropping the ball in the act of trying to score after another good run by Luke Strauss.

Windridge-France then took a leaf out of Luke Strauss’ book with a fine run before Yarnbury stole a Baildon line-out in the home 22.

However, the visitors were not to be denied and, after Cookson was stopped deep in Yarnbury’s defensive third, Josh Strauss picked his way through for a 54th-minute try which, surprisingly, Duxbury failed to convert.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Josh Strauss charges through to score Baildon's first try on Saturday.Josh Strauss charges through to score Baildon's first try on Saturday. (Image: Mick Massey.)

But the home side hit back seven minutes later with a try by Max Lee after a curving run, though it was game on again at 20-13 after Luke Strauss took a good line to score a try, the sparky Williams adding a fine conversion.

Then Yarnbury punctured Baildon’s balloon with a try on the right by Windridge-France with 10 minutes left.

Cameron Newby was named Yarnbury’s man of the match, but it was also a day to remember for team-mate Harrison Smith, who played for 55 minutes a season after breaking his back.

Elsewhere in the Papa John’s Cup, Bradford Salem received a bye through to the Counties One North Plate quarter-finals.

They will visit Wetherby in their last-eight clash this coming Saturday, with this tournament a bonus for the pair, who were both promoted up to Regional Two North East earlier this month.

Salem were guaranteed to go up after pipping Wetherby to the title, but the latter had their promotion confirmed a week after the end of the season, deservedly so after accruing 88 points, just one less than their Bradford rivals, and 18 wins from 22 games.