Overtime leveller denies Gate as Aspinall’s men draw third game on road

Harrogate RUFC in action against Sedgley Park in November
Harrogate RUFC in action against Sedgley Park in November

Harrogate director of rugby Mike Aspinall admitted his squad’s frustration after failing to beat lowly Birmingham Solihull on Saturday.

Gate’s players were left scratching their heads for answers following their third away draw of the season when they shared the points in the Midlands 20-20.

The Cockerels had found themselves in control of the game in the second half only to see their third bottom opponents touch down a converted try in the ninth minute of injury time.

Away-day draws have also come against Hull and Huddersfield this season and Aspinall admitted it was “hard to fully define how to feel about them”.

Gate remain in sixth in National Two North following a strong start to the season, but the dropped points were a cause for concern for their chief.

Aspinall said: “We don’t want to pat ourselves on the back too much. There’s a real want to get better week by week.

“In the dressing room afterwards on Saturday, it felt like we had lost. The guys were racking their brains and searching for the answers straight away. We expected better.

“The majority of the guys were frustrated and disappointed at the end.

“It just shows we need to be on the money each week but it is still a great compliment to this group of players that we sit in sixth.”

Harrogate enjoyed forward domination early on against Birmingham and it enabled the backs to strut their stuff though the treacherous underfoot conditions.

A Bees offside offence led to debutant full-back Jon Dawes kicking Harrogate into the lead but Birmingham’s Adam Canning levelled with a penalty following his own excellent line kick.

Harrogate conceded another penalty which led to a Bees attacking line out. They set up a driving maul and second row Chris Goddard crashed over to score. Canning converted and soon further extended the lead with a penalty kick.

A dazzling right wing run from Harrogate’s Cam Leadley followed a Callum Irvine midfield break and Luke Edwards finished the move by scything through for a converted try.

The slippery conditions made Birmingham’s kicking game an effective tactic but Harrogate persisted with creative backs play.

A difficult penalty kick was narrowly missed by Dawes in the final move of the half but he levelled the scores soon after the interval.

The Harrogate pressure continued but Canning made a brilliant interception followed by a 30 metres break.

The home side piled pressure back on Gate but a Dawes tackle forced their left winger into touch with the line apparently at his mercy. A huge Danny Matthews clearance then relieved the pressure and Harrogate went on to the attack. Replacement prop, Ben Hepworth featured strongly in tight and open play as Harrogate set up waves of attacks.

On the stroke of full time, Bottomley forced his way over on the left and Joe Rowntree’s touchline conversion put Harrogate into a seemingly unassailable lead. However, the referee allowed a further nine minutes of stoppage time and a quickly taken Bees penalty led to Goddard’s second try and Canning’s equalising conversion.