Harrogate signed off 2013 with a memorable 25-9 derby victory over Otley at Cross Green to end a run of defeats.
Before the National Two North game, Harrogate would certainly have settled for a bonus point win in this pre Christmas derby.
The bonus point came from a Kyle Dench try in the last move of the match but Harrogate had been in such control that they should have been out of sight long before the end.
Powerful forward running from Jake Brady, Tim Heaton and Nathan Smith produced a stream of good ball for Harrogate from which their talented backs threatened to run riot. An attacking line-out led to a surging driving maul, the ball was spun left and Sam Bottomley carved a midfield opening to score under the posts and give Callum Irvine a straightforward conversion.
Harrogate forwards then won good turnover ball but were penalised for coming in from the side and the talented Mark Ireland kicked his first penalty goal of the match.
Otley continued to attack through forward drives but Aarin Yorke won another excellent turnover and Harrogate countered from deep.
However they were penalised for crossing and Ireland’s second penalty brought Otley within a point of Harrogate’s total.
A well controlled Harrogate 20 metres driving maul then had Otley in disarray and they went offside in desperation. Irvine’s penalty extended the visitors’ lead and their attacks continued though several promising opportunities were lost through final handling errors.
A classy Ireland break took Otley into an attacking situation but the Harrogate forwards regained possession and Brady took off on a thunderous midfield charge, scattering defenders like ninepins. Concerted Harrogate attacks followed and Heaton linked well with Bottomley whose pass gave Dench enough space for a deft chip kick into the corner.
Yorke’s electric pace outstripped the home defence to win the chase for Harrogate’s second try. Towards the end of the half, Harrogate were penalised for holding and Ireland’s kick kept the home side in contention.
An excellent Ireland kick-off started the second half and Otley’s pack won possession to drive at Harrogate.
Brady was sin binned for a technical offence and further pressure followed. However Harrogate’s defence held firm during Brady’s absence and should actually have scored when a searing Oli Denton break from defence, followed by slick passing seemed to have created a certain try.
However, the move unfortunately ended with a knock-on. An Irvine interception set up another promising attack but yet another handling error followed.
Otley’s attacking ambitions were mainly centred round their forward though former Harrogate back, Arnie Ellison made a strong right wing break only to be clattered into touch by Steve Parsons. Terrier like play from Rob Adair kept securing possession for Harrogate and his exceptional speed sparked off several attacking moves. An Otley clearance failed to find touch and Irvine fielded the ball on the right touchline. Although apparently completely hemmed in, he set off on a jinking 50 metre run to leave the defence in tatters and score in the corner.
A succession of Harrogate attacks followed and an incisive Bottomley break almost created another try but, with time running out, Harrogate finally secured the bonus point try. Dench played for Otley a few years ago so it was particularly fitting that his strong, direct running took him through the defence to score.
Otley: Fairclough (Beaumont 49), Ellison, Coady, Gemmell (Mackie 49), Hudson, Ireland, Depledge, Rigg (Burkinshaw 23), Chivers (Steele 62), Hill, Stannard, Willet, Stephens, Armitage,
Scott (Costello 63)
Harrogate: Denton, Parsons, Dench, Bottomley, N Minikin (Rowntree 62), Irvine, Wickham (Matthews 53), Metcalfe, Yorke, Browne, Brady, Wilson (Gardiner 62), Adair, Smith (Johnson 73), Heaton
Referee: Llyr Ap Geraint-Roberts (RFU)