HARROGATE turned in a momentous performance against National Two North title challengers Caldy, but ultimately were denied by a single point to lose 22-21.
The lead changed four times in this absorbing contest. At the end of full time, Mike Aspinall split the Caldy defence with a dazzling 50 metre break.
Callum Irvine supported well and took Aspinall’s pass on the home 22 line. He burst through two despairing tackles to touch down under the posts. H
is conversion put Harrogate 19-21 ahead.
However, five minutes of injury time were played and Harrogate were adjudged offside in the final move of the match. Caldy’s Ben Geatches held his nerve and kicked a difficult long range penalty to win the match by the smallest of margins.
A gale force crosswind made playing conditions difficult but both sides tried to play open, attractive rugby.
The set pieces were well contested but the athletic Sam Brady stole several crucial home line-out balls.
Tom Harvey, starting at No6, had a fine game and his back row partners, Tim Heaton & Ryan Peacey, were again very effective in attack and defence. However, the outstanding player on the field was undoubtedly Caldy’s all action No7, Harry Broadbent.
Inconsistent refereeing was another big factor in the game with nearly all his decisions going against Harrogate.
However, in the 25th minute, he aroused the wrath of the home spectators by reversing a penalty decision and giving Irvine the opportunity to kick Harrogate into the lead.
A silky Irvine break then set up another Harrogate attacking move which eventually ended with a knock-on. Harrogate attacks were dominating the game at this stage and they came close to scoring on several occasions. Eventually, Aspinall danced through defenders and, though apparently checked close to the line, managed to squirm through for a fine try.
Irvine then had a touchline conversion attempt into the strong wind. He seemed to have judged it perfectly but the wind dropped fractionally at the last moment and the kick went narrowly wide.
The half time 0-8 Harrogate lead looked solid in these difficult conditions.
Caldy had other ideas and set up driving attacking mauls from the restart. Their dynamic tight head prop, Derek Salisbury, drove through to score and make it 7-8. Harrogate edged further ahead when Caldy were penalised for a hands in offence and Irvine’s kick made it 7-11. Another powerful Caldy burst seemed to have earned another try but the ball had been touched down just short of the line. The home backs then sparked into life and centre, Gavin Roberts, outstripped Harrogate’s defenders for an excellent individual try. Geatches’ conversion put Caldy 14-11 ahead.
Caldy attacks were now being matched by good Harrogate defence but a home forward drive led to Salisbury scoring in an almost identical way to his first try. Caldy were now seemingly comfortably ahead at 19-11 midway through the half. An Irvine kick made it 19-14 after Caldy were penalised for foul play and the game continued to seesaw until Aspinal’s break started the compelling end of the match drama.
Caldy: McPherson, Soutar, G Roberts, Geatches, Devaney, Broxson, Smith, Parker, Rylance, Salisbury, Collister, King, Manley, Broadbent, Dickinson
Harrogate:Smithies, Ellison, Bottomley, Quarendon (Heylings 77), Aspinall, Irvine, Wickham, Bergmanas, Yorke (Maycock), Fraser (Innes 50), Spencer (J Brady 65), S Brady, Harvey (Beaumont 60), Heaton Peacey
Referee: Mark Liddell (RFU)