A SPIRITED second half fight-back brought Harrogate tantalisingly close to a major upset against National Two North leaders, Loughborough on Saturday.
Although the Students were outscored by three tries to two, they completely out-scrummaged Harrogate and this, along with their overall organisation, pace and superior goal kicking earned them a deserved 24-17 win.
Loughborough’s Andy Hall kicked them into an early lead for a Harrogate offside offence and he soon added to this with another penalty resulting from pressure on the Harrogate scrum. Still more scrum pressure led to another penalty against Harrogate and Hall duly made it 0-9 after 15 minutes.
Loughborough continued to control the game though Harrogate mounted the occasional counter attack, usually from excellent back row work from Ryan Peacey & Tim Heaton. Sam Bottomley was again Harrogate’s most dangerous back. The home defence was also stretched by Hall’s clever attacking kicks and Loughborough’s first try when centre, Chris Kinloch, won the chase to touch down under the posts. Mr Halford initially thought that a defender touched the ball down but the Assistant Referee correctly intervened to confirm that the try had been scored.
Harrogate came more and more into the game as the half progressed and forced 3 successive 5 metre scrums on the Loughborough line. Peacey broke strongly but was held up just short and Andy Fraser supported well to crash over and score.
Loughborough had to defend desperately from the restart as Harrogate won great turnover ball and mounted concerted attacks. Joe Atkinson, the outstanding visitors’ flanker turned defence into attack with a powerful run and put Loughborough back into attacking mode. Full back, Craig Holland, split the home defence with a mazy run and scored Loughborough’s 2nd try.
Harrogate were now threatening to completely turn the game round and came close to scoring 2 well worked tries. Will Heylings seemed to have scored but the Assistant Referee ruled that he’d knocked on while touching down. Shortly afterwards, a desperate tackle on replacement flanker, Chris Wilson, saved a seemingly certain try.
The pressure had to tell and ,almost inevitably, Harrogate’s score came from another strong Peacey drive from the base of a scrum. This created a gap for Dickie Davies to gather Peacey’s well timed pass and score a converted try.
Still more Harrogate pressure followed but Loughborough seized on a loose ball to counter-attack.
It was then Loughborough’s turn to make a loose pass and Harrogate’s Toby Quarendon made a great interception and made a 40 metre break. He was checked close to the line and the move ended through lack of support. However, Harrogate were not to be denied and mounted prolonged pressure on Loughborough. Almost inevitably, Peacey was again the prime mover in Harrogate’s final try. He made valuable ground before the ball was spun right and replacement hooker, Steve Maycock crashed over to score in the corner.
A major upset seemed distinctly possible as Harrogate continued to attack. However, an adjudged scrum offence led to another successful Hall penalty goal for Loughborough.
Harrogate: Smithies, Ellison, Bottomley, Quarendon, Heylings, Davies, Wickham, Bergmana, Yorke (Maycock 60), Fraser (Innes 56), J Brady, S Brady (Harvey 60), Maud (Wilson 49), Heaton, Peacey
Loughborough: Holland, Dowsett (Bliss 70), Kinloch, Simpson, Wilson, Hall, Weir, Cunnew (Allan 63), Crozier (Rudland-Thomas 16), Williams, McKenna, Conquest, Atkinson, Robinson, Silcock
Referee: Will Halford RFU
Man of the Match: William Simpson (Loughborough)