Director of rugby Mike Aspinall feels Harrogate RUFC are well positioned to improve on last year’s fourth placed finish as they approach the end of their pre-season campaign.
‘Gate have just one more pre-season friendly to go before welcoming old rivals Otley to their new Rudding Lane base on the opening day of the National Two North calendar.
National One side Hull Ionians pose that test this Saturday (3pm) in a Wooden Spoon Charity clash, and Aspinall is hoping his players can put the final touches to their ever-expanding game plan into practice.
The coach said: “We are getting the foundations in place. We will be spending all season trying to perfect the game of rugby. At the moment we need to see that there are some really strong foundations.
“We do look fit but we need to sharpen up our understanding defensively.
“It’s still early, but I think we have got a group that can take thinks on from last year.
“We have got a group that can beat opposition wherever the opposition shows a weakness rather than just having a plan A.
“To have such strength all around the park, whether that’s up front or down the middle, is really important.”
Aspinall’s squad have endured a mixed time during friendly season so far, with two narrow defeats in respective weeks.
Last week, Harrogate went down 29-26 to Glasgow side GHA and they suffered another three-point defeat to National Two South outfit Southend 39-36 seven days later.
Against Scottish outfit GHA, Harrogate had allowed their visitors to race into an early lead. But similar mistakes were corrected against Southend, as the Cockerels amounted what looked to be an impregnable lead. However, their advantage waned in the second half and the southern side collected victory by scoring a try with the last play of the game.
Despite the scoreline, Harrogate were able to field 25 squad members as Aspinall continues to narrow down his starting 15 to face Otley.
Aspinall reflected on a number of positive signs from the weeks before the start of their season.
He said: “There’s been very good numbers all the way through summer which is always a good sign of where we are.
“Obviously, with it being this time of year, you do lose a few to holidays but there’s been a good attitude throughout the squad and the guys certainly look match ready.
“We are just trying to learn as much as possible. I was really pleased with how stern a test we had against Glasgow.
“There have been some really positive signs in the way the team came back in the Glasgow game and we scored some good tries.”