Harrogate signed off the 2013-14 National Two North season with a 19-41 defeat at home to Stourbridge on Saturday, finishing ninth in the division.
Promotion candidates Stourbridge justified the difference in the clubs’ league positions with a comfortable win.
They were the bigger, faster and stronger side and although Harrogate mounted a spirited second half recovery, Stourbridge were worthy winners.
Unfortunately for them, Darlington’s win over Macclesfield put them in third place so Gate and Stour will be locking horns again next season.
Stourbridge began with an attacking chip over the Harrogate goal line. However, the pressure had to tell and No8, Drew Harper powered over from a five-metre scrum to open Stourbridge’s account.
The visiting pressure continued and, from a quick penalty, the ball was spun left for a Gary Dipple try.
Although they were living off scraps, Harrogate’s backs continued to attack at every opportunity with Tim Heaton drives creating half chances for Sam Bottomley, James Audsley-Beck and Steve Parsons.
Nevertheless, the next score came from a Stourbridge forwards drive and second row Ben Hughes powered over for a try converted by Jamie Hearn.
More Stour pressure led to Hearn scoring the next converted try.
Harrogate counter attacked but the ball was turned over and scrum half, Pete White made a telling break which was supported by Hearn for another converted try.
Harrogate cended the half with a well-deserved converted try.
An Irvine break initiated the move which was well supported by Audsley-Beck and Heaton.
Jimmy Browne drove strongly and, when he was checked illegally, Aarin Yorke darted over from a quickly taken penalty.
Freshened by substitutions, Harrogate attacks had Stourbridge reeling in the second half.
Kyle Dench was a constant midfield threat and was at the heart of a stream of Harrogate attacks.
Jake Brady added some much needed forward power and incisive Rob Adair breaks were well supported by Luke Edwards and the other strong running backs.
Irvine had to retire with an arm injury but the pressure continued and, an attempted Stourbridge counter was ended by a crunching Parsons cover tackle.
Phil Wickham, replacement stand-off Joe Rowntree and Dench combined to create a gap from which Noel Minikin scored.
A forwards dust-up was the next notable incident and unfortunately led to red cards for home and away 2nd rows, Brady and Hughes.
Still more creative Harrogate back play was then ended by Bottomley scything through to score with Rowntree’s conversion making it 19-29.
That was as good as it got. Stourbridge’s superior physicality began to tell again and the match ended with a tries from Sione Tuipolotu and Nile Dacres with Hearn converting one of them.
Harrogate: Parsons, Parrish (Dench 40), Bottomley, Edwards, Audsley-Beck, Irvine (Rowntree 47), Wickham, Metcalfe, Yorke, Browne (Reaveley 57), Johnson (Brady 40), Wilson, Minikin (Adair 40), Smith, Heaton
Stourbridge: Jarvis, Dipple, Shillingford, Barkley, Hearn, Robinson, White, George, Wight (Garner 63), Hill (Sturdy 63), Hughes, Hurrell (Dacre 20), Mukarati, Uzoigewe, Harper
Referee: Andrew Rawson (RFU)