Injury-ravaged Harrogate slipped to a 42-28 defeat away at Macclesfield in National Two North on Saturday.
But there was some good news, as a largely inexperienced Harrogate side gave the League leaders a real scare and were actually 15-20 ahead at half time.
Macclesfield’s power play prevailed in the second half and Harrogate were further weakened by another run of serious injuries.
Having used all their substitutes, they actually finished the match with only 14 players.
Macclesfield took the offensive from the start and stretched Harrogate’s defence with some well worked moves.
A Harrogate offside offence was punished by a Tom Eaton penalty goal and a series of powerful forward drives ended with a Tom Mantell try.
The pressure continued and, after a good build up, the ball was spun left to Elliot Brierley who scored in the corner.
Mike Barlow’s conversion made it 15-0 in as many minutes and it all looked very ominous for Harrogate.
From the restart, Harrogate pressurised the home defence into errors with dynamic forward play from Jake Brady, Tom Harvey and Tim Heaton.
An injury to Brady led to his departure but the visitors’ pressure continued and a dazzling Callum Irvine break was well supported.
The pack then set up a 25 metres driving maul and a Danny Matthews half break created enough space for Oli Denton to score.
An excellent Joe Rowntree touchline conversion followed.
Harrogate’s forwards continued to drive into the home defence with Heaton and Harvey to the fore. A promising attack was foiled by a deliberate Macclesfield knock-on.
Eaton was sent to the sin bin and Rowntree’s penalty brought the score to 15-10. Harrogate then set up a counter attack from deep and the Harvey/Heaton combination continued to scatter defenders. D
enton’s deceptive pace saw him glide through the midfield to give a scoring pass to Jordan Davies who thundered over from 20 metres.
Another fine Rowntree conversion put Harrogate ahead and he soon followed this with a well struck penalty to increase the lead at the break.
A fired up Macclesfield came out of their blocks from the restart, the ball was spun right after a driving Maul and Barlow’s try levelled the scores. A well worked line-out move led to another Macclesfield attack which was thwarted by a great Irvine tackle.
Luke Edwards set up a promising counter attack which ended with a knock-on and home right winger, Matthew King made a great break.
The ball was spun left for Ed Stobart to score a converted try.
A badly missed Harrogate tackle soon created space for him to score again but, although the game was running away from them, Harrogate’s attacking play continued.
A Macclesfield offside offence led to a Rowntree penalty goal and Harrogate continued to attack at every opportunity. A knock-on ended a creative counter attack, Macclesfield set up a driving maul from the lost possession and Ryan Parkinson crashed over for a converted try.
Errors were now creeping into Harrogate’s game and they lost an attacking line-out. A dazed Irvine then had to leave the field and Harrogate were reduced to 14 men. They continued to defend vigorously and the ball was hacked clear from a Macclesfield drive.
Replacement winger, Noel Minikin’s pressure forced Macclesfield’s Franky Barker to lose possession and he kicked on to win the chase for the line and score.
A fluffed 22 drop out led to a Macclesfield scrum from which Harrogate then went offside to give away another 3 points. In the final move of the game, Harrogate were awarded a penalty and kicked for an attacking line-out. Unfortunately, the over ambitious kick went dead.
Macclesfield: Barlow, Stobart, Brierley,O’Regan, King, Eaton, Townsend, Mantell, Blackwell, Bester, Marwick, Williams, Kenny, Parkinson, Barker
Harrogate: Denton, Davies (N Minikin 65), Irvine, Edwards, L Minikin, Rowntree, Matthews (Wickham 40), Metcalf, Maycock, Reaveley (Browne 40), Brady (Spencer 25), Harvey, Smith, Adair (Yorke 60), Heaton.
Referee: Llyr Ap Geraint Roberts (RFU)