Sandal 17-35 Harrogate
A dazzling first half display gave Harrogate victory in a true game of two halves at Yorkshire rivals Sandal.
Harrogate scored 35 unanswered points in a free-flowing first half before Sandal struck back with 17 points of their own after the interval.
From the kick-off, Harrogate won good turnover ball and forwards and backs linked well.
Pressure on Sandal’s line created space for full back Lewis Minikin to dart through and open the scoring.
The conversion attempt failed but, minutes later, Sandal went offside and MInikin’s penalty extended Harrogate’s lead.
The pressure continued and Callum Irvine ghosted through the defence for a converted try.
Powerful forward driving from defence initiated the next score. The ball was quickly released to Callum Irvine who made a half break, chipped ahead, gathered his own kick and outstripped the defence for a brilliant individual converted try.
Uncharacteristically, Harrogate’s line-out was less secure than normal and Tom Proctor, Sandal’s industrious lock, made a powerful touchline break after stealing a Harrogate ball. However, he was tackled into touch and the visiting pressure continued.
Strong running from Sam Bottomley carved a hole in the home defence but a knock-on gave Sandal temporary respite. However, a long range Irvine drop goal extended Harrogate’s lead and they continued to attack.
A powerful Sam Brady run burst through the defence, Bottomley carried the move on and Harrogate camped on the Sandal goal line until a knock-on ended the move.
In the final move of the half, Minikin joined the line from deep and outstripped the defence for the bonus point winning converted try which effectively ended the match at the break
From the restart, Sandal came out of their blocks with concerted attacks launched by their experienced scrum-half, Joe Bedford.
From a quickly taken penalty, his sharp break gave Simon Frewin enough space to score a try in the corner, well converted by Greg Wood.
An attacking chip into Harrogate’s goal area appeared to be well covered but a wicked bounce deceived the defender and James Ellar followed up to touch down for a second converted try.
Continued pressure forced Harrogate to go offside in defence and they were duly punished by Wood’s penalty kick.
This turned out to be the final score of the match but attacking play from both sides was well contained by good defences.
Well into injury time, a succession of quick Sandal penalties mounted pressure on Harrogate’s line but they narrowly failed to score.
Sandal: Frewin, Chitabura, Martin, Pease, Ellar, Wood, Bedford, Edler, A Norbury, White, Stewart, Proctor, Heron, Maguire, Whitington. Subs:- L Norbury, R Norbury, Potrykus, Pickersgill, Findlay.
Harrogate: L Minikin, Bottomley, Frost, N Minikin, Edwards, Irvine, Wickham, Purkiss-McEndoo, Maycock, Ward, J Brady, S Brady, Harvey, J Coser, Enslin. Subs:- G Coser, Boyde, Beagrie, Davies