Young starlets’ chance to earn Gate shirts

Luke Edwards and Harry Parrish
Luke Edwards and Harry Parrish

Disappointed Harrogate director of rugby Mike Aspinall has thrown down the gauntlet for his young guns to nail down starting spots.

Harrogate’s bid to reach the National Two North top six was thwarted on Saturday after weighty visitors Macclesfield romped home with a 49-19 win.

Macclesfield rose onto the top of the table with the bonus-point victory, as Gate were left trailing in eighth, nine points behind Birmingham Solihull in sixth.

And ahead of this weekend’s clash against Caldy at Claro Road (2pm), Aspinall urged his players to bounce back at the first opportunity.

Centre Sam Bottomley and flanker Rob Adair are unavailable but experienced prop Jimmy Browne returns after missing the Macclesfield clash.

Youngsters Luke Edwards and Harry Parrish will contest the vacant spot in the back-line, while Noel Minikin and Tom Harvey are vying for the Adair’s flanker role.

Aspinall said: “We have eight games left. There are no easy games but we have to look at all those games and think we can finish the season well.

“There’s no better place to start than with Caldy.

“With this team functioning the best it can be, I fully believe we can beat everybody.

“You want a blend of experience within your team and within your back line but I am pretty comfortable playing any of our backs.

“I will be 100 per cent picking on form.

“If guys come in and do well, it will be their shirt to lose.”

Seventh-placed Caldy edged Gate 24-17 in November but the Wirral side have won just two of their last five matches.

“We had the best of the rugby that day but they halted our progress in the contact area,” Aspinall said.

“We were a bit weak so we are focusing on that. If we can focus on that, we can be confident of beating them.”

Gate had competed well throughout the opening 40 minutes, and trailed by just five points at the interval.

Hooker Aarin Yorke popped over for the first try after incisive breaks by Callum Irvine and Kyle Dench.

Irvine got himself on the score-sheet for a converted touchdown before Nathan Smith also crossed.

Adair was sent to the bin shortly before the interval, and his missing presence allowed Macclesfield to pull ahead.

And the visiting pack ran riot in the second period, adding 25 points as Gate went scoreless.

Aspinall added: “Macclesfield are a very big pack and when you’re fighting somebody way over your body weight it does take it out of your more than it does them.

“There’s a lot of big blokes there. They did grind us down. “We knew what was coming and we weren’t good enough to stop it.”