Sam Bottomley’s two tries paved the route for Harrogate RUFC’s first home win of the season against Bromsgrove on Saturday.
Bottomley’s incisive scores either side of half-time set ‘Gate flying to a 32-12 bonus point victory at Claro Road.
Steve Maycock, Harry Parrish and Luke Edwards also ran in scores as ‘Gate controlled from the first whistle to the final blast.
And the margin of victory could have been even greater, had fly-half Joe Rowntree packed the right kicking boots.
Rowntree kept his place in the number 10 jersey after an impressive showing at Hull last week, and he again started alongside Danny Matthews at half-back.
Director of Rugby Mike Aspinall welcomed back club captain Jimmy Browne for his first competitive action of the campaign in his recovery from knee surgery.
Last week’s win at Hull had been ‘Gate’s first of the season. However, with their four earlier conquerors sitting inside National League Two North’s top five, the Claro Road faithful remained largely optimistic.
The Worcestershire visitors equally arrived with victory over Hull the only one to their name this season.
And within a minute of kick-off, they were already trailing.
Rowntree’s kick-off was spurned forward and the subsequent solid scrum led to a penalty 25 yards out, the fly-half smacking the first attempt straight between the sticks.
Ill-discipline became a feature of the visitors’ defence. But Rowntree failed to make them pay three minutes after when his kick, again driven hard, sailed wide.
Flanker Chris Wilson, often ‘Gate’s go-to man at the line-out, was then forced off through injury, with Nathan Smith on as an early replacement.
Smith’s first task was to help his teammates thwart Bromsgrove from a two-minute barrage inside the ‘Gate 22. The away side kept the ball phase after phase, but lacked a sharpened edge to slice through ‘Gate’s warrior-like resolve.
When ‘Gate’s defence eventually put the attack into touch, Matthews’ clearing kick was palmed into touch to hand the home side possession on the half-way line.
And from the next phase, Rowntree was given another shot at goal, which missed to the right.
‘Gate continued to pry. And after Edwards broke through, centre partner Bottomley surged through the evasive Bromsgrove defence to powerfully dive over. Rowntree failed to add an extra two.
But he wasn’t the only fly-half failing to find his range. Bromsgrove’s own number 10 Jon Critchlow flung a kick wide.
‘Gate’s backs were running the visitors ragged, Edwards, full-back Oli Denton and Parrish delivering speedy breaks at will.
But the forwards also had a snarl, a grunt and a bite too much for their opponents.
Their pressure in the scrum brought Rowntree another shot at goal, but for a fourth straight attempt, his kick was missed.
Two minutes later, he didn’t need the touch judges’ flags to tell him as the crowd’s ironic cheers signalled he got his next attempt right.
The missed kicks were the story of the half. ‘Gate should have been out of sight.
And another penalty, this time up-wind, sailed wide after the restart.
After prop Aarin Yorke’s dancing footwork, ‘Gate made a meal of two spare men on the right flank, allowing Bromsgrove to smack clear.
The visitors’ counter brought them back into the contest with a well-worked move ending in an unconverted try down the left.
Their ray of light lasted for three minutes.
Bottomley changed gear just inside the opponent’s half and forced the full back wider and wider before touching down. Rowntree’s conversion was successful.
Despite Rowntree’s kicking woes, his game management excelled from fly-half allowing his fellow young backs to reign supreme.
And sustained pressure in the Bromsgrove 22 extended ‘Gate’s lead.
Steve Maycock added the final touch to a battering spell of forward power and pressure. Again, Rowntree knocked over a simple conversion through the posts.
The two quick scores became three with an excellent exhibition of pace by Parrish. The young winger split Bromsgrove apart before running full circle around the opposing full-back to ensure the full five points would be won. Substitute Callum Irvine had no problems adding the conversion.
The away team weren’t as finished as they looked. Critchlow crashed between Jake Brady and Edwards’ attempts at a tackle to slide over, before converting himself.
Tiredness crept into ‘Gate’s game, and the odd penalty allowed Bromsgrove to have another foray into their 22.
But a terrible mistake allowed Heaton to pounce on the ball and end any dangers.
With the game opened, Irvine fooled his way through but he was hauled back as he searched a final score.
That came minutes later, though, as the ever-effective Edwards benefitted from the forwards’ hard work to rubberstamp the victory.
He whizzed through the defence to dive between the posts and Irvine converted with the final kick.
It capped a glorious display by ‘Gate and one to settle the home fans’ nerves after the two earlier Claro Road defeats suffered on their National Two North return.
Aspinall’s young side played with flair in the backs, steel up front and an adaptability to constantly keep the opposition guessing.
Denton, Parrish, Edwards, Bottomley, L Minikin, Rowntree (Irvine 51), Matthews (Wickham 51). Metcalfe, Maycock, Reaveley (Browne 40), J Brady, Harvey, Wilson (N Smith 6) Adair (Yorke 40), Heaton
Palmer (Bache 62), Bastock, Mortelmans, Young, Higgins, Critchlow, De Cothi, Abel (Belmonte 50), Glenn (Tsang 51), Salisbury, S Smith (Foster 65), Edgar, Hughes, Morgan (Crane 52), Hardwick.
Will Halford (RFU).