HARROGATE came back from a 21-7 deficit to score four tries and gain an invaluable five league points in their 27-21 win at Nuneaton.
Harrogate mounted waves of attacks from the kick-off. The dominant Nick Beaumont/James Tyson/Tim Heaton back row efficiently recycled ball and half backs, Phil Wickham & Mike Aspinall orchestrated some dazzling back play. Excellent as this was, they were held out by a well organized Nuneaton defence and, in the 10th minute, the Nuns got into Harrogate’s half for the first time. Harrogate went offside and a penalty kick from home stand-off, Lee Chapman, put them three points ahead.
Another Chapman penalty attempt bounced off the upright and Harrogate counter-attacked. However they were then penalised for holding and conceded a further 10 metres by protesting. Chapman made no mistake this time and followed this with a prodigious long range kick to put Nuneaton 9 points ahead.
Harrogate had dominated territorially but the home backs were now getting more possession and were looking increasingly dangerous. An Aspinall clearance was gathered at pace by Nuneaton’s Will Cave to set up an attack. Elliott Brown came into the line strongly from his full back position to score an excellent converted try.
On the half hour, Harrogate finally scored a try. Ed Smithies cleverly gathered his own chip ahead at pace, Aspinall carried the move on and kicked into space on the right. Flying winger, Will Heylings outstripped the home defence to score and Aspinall converted from the touchline.
Nuneaton’s next try came after a forward drive produced good ball. Chapman set up an attack and Brown again made himself the extra man to score. The Nuns had to defend desperately for the rest of the half but set up a series of pick and drives to try to run the clock down. However Beaumont and Tyson combined to win a great turnover, Nuneaton went offside and an Aspinall penalty made the half time score 21-10.
Nuneaton went on the offensive from the restart and it was Harrogate’s turn to demonstrate their defensive skills. An excellent Wickham clearance relieved some sustained pressure and the Harrogate pack began to produce more possession. Sam Brady, who dominated in the lines-out, broke strongly through the middle but the move ended with a knock-on. A Tyson run then started a move from which Aspinall cross kicked. Winger, Jack Latus, who’d made an impressive debut gathered and dived over in the corner. Another Aspinall touchline conversion made it 21-17.
Harrogate’s pack were now in control and pressure from Steve Maycock forced a home defensive error. A quickly taken penalty put Heylings clear and his try edged Harrogate ahead. The backs continued to batter at the Nuns’ line but the final try came from loose head prop, Jack Bergmanas. He’d had to pass a late fitness test to play but supported well to bulldoze his way over the line.
Harrogate’s pack ended the match by securing possession with continued pick and drives. Nuneaton’s last chance came when they forced Harrogate into touch and were awarded a line-out. However, Jimmy Browne stole possession from the line and Harrogate had won a famous victory.
Nuneaton: Brown, Cave, Johnson, Douglas, Smitham (Nixon 72), Chapman, Thomas, Taylor (Dunkley 40, Woodfield 66), Ross, Pateman, Aston (Turner 57), Griffiths, Dockray, Forder (Fan 57), Gibbons
Harrogate: Smithies, Latus, Bottomley, Gemmell (Quarendon 51), Heylings, Aspinall, Wickham, Bergmanas (Nyemba 74), Maycock, Browne, Harvey, S Brady, Beaumont, Tyson, Heaton.
Referee: Tom Foley (RFU)