Rugby Union: Chester 30 Harrogate 13

(131130M3c)
(131130M3c)

Chester’s second-half fightback compounded Harrogate RUFC to their third National League Two North defeat in a row.

Harrogate dominated play up to the interval with driving forward play which produced quality ball from which their talented backs launched waves of attacks.

A 20 or 30 points half-time lead would have been a fair reflection of play but, all too often, the final pass went astray and they were a mere 6 points ahead at the break.

Chester made a crucial front row substitution at half time which greatly improved their previously struggling scrum and the home backs took full advantage.

Chester hardly had a sniff of the ball for the first 15 minutes but good defence and the occasional wild Harrogate pass kept the score even till a Callum Irvine left wing break was carried on by Kyle Dench.

His strong running created space for Rob Adair to sprint clear of the cover and score a try, excellently converted from the touchline by Joe Rowntree.

Powerful forward drives from Tom Harvey, Jake Brady, Nathan Smith and Tim Heaton punched holes in Chester’s defence and pacey runs from Adair and Aarin Yorke linked well with the backs.

Sam Bottomley continually cut through the midfield and Steve Parsons made several telling runs without ever getting completely clear.

The pressure forced Chester into defensive illegalities from which Rowntree kicked two penalties and home flanker, Mike Craven was sent to the sin bin for the second offence.

Harrogate made a mess of Chester’s restart kick and home centre Rhys Hayes made a telling midfield break from the good possession. From an attacking line-out, the seven man Chester pack set up a series of driving mauls from which Gavin Woods powered over in the corner.

Hayes’s conversion made it 7-13 and, although Harrogate came near to scoring on several more occasions, this was the half time score.

A fired-up Chester took the game to Harrogate after the interval but the visitors counter attacked from deep and a long Adair run was halted by a desperate tackle just short of the line.

Then, for almost the first time in the match, Harrogate made a conventional kick for touch from defence.

Unfortunately, the kick was a poor one and winger Andrew Oakden gathered it at pace and ran in a 30 metres converted try which put Chester ahead for the first time. More Chester driving mauls followed and scrum half James Mitchell squirmed over.

Chester were now dominating possession though Harrogate continued to attack adventurously whenever they got the chance.

A Hayes penalty goal made it 24-13 at the start of the final quarter

and, with minutes to go, Harrogate’s defence held firm against battering Chester driving mauls on the goal line.

The ball was then spun right for winger Peter Rees to score a converted try in the corner.

Chester’s victory dumped Harrogate into 12th place in National Two North, as the hosts themselves rose into the league’s top five.

Harrogate host mid-table Leicester Lions on Saturday.

Chester

James (Towers 7), Rees, Hayes, Varkulis, Oakden (Vare 79), Nelson, Mitchell, Woods, Gill, Fitzgerald (Whitelock-Wainwright 40), Gregory, White, Moore (McKenzie 79), Craven, Ford.

Harrogate

Denton, Irvine, Dench, Bottomley, Parsons, Rowntree (Whittaker 58), Matthews, Metcalfe, Yorke, Browne (Musetti 63), Brady, Harvey, Adair, Smith (Wilson 73), Heaton (Spencer 70).

Referee

Jamie Leahy (RFU)