Rugby Union: Harrogate must up game to get near National Two North top two goal - Aspinall

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  • Luctonians 27-18 Harrogate
  • Sam Bottomley, Callum Irvine and Lewis Minikin score tries for Harrogate
  • Aspinall: “We didn’t turn our superiority into points
  • Hooker Tom Larder to be dropped for Sandal tie

Director of rugby Mike Aspinall told his squad to raise their level despite watching them collect a second successive victory of the season against Luctonians 27-18 on Saturday.

Harrogate required a dominant second-half performance to take victory, after a nervy first half had them just two points ahead at the interval.

Off the back of a strong afternoon from the pack, second half tries from Lewis Minikin and Callum Irvine added to Sam Bottomley’s first half score as Harrogate went up to fifth in National Two North.

Aspinall was unhappy with his side’s showing, though, and said it fell short of a side aspiring to finish in the promotion spots.

The coach said: “We were pretty dominant in the scrum which is the big thing from the day.

“Obviously we came away with a five-point win but the boys at the full time whistle were under no illusions that the performance needed to be better.

Callum Irvine scored Harrogate's third try (Photo: Richard Bown)

Callum Irvine scored Harrogate's third try (Photo: Richard Bown)

“We need to learn along the way, but I don’t think we have put in a performance yet that we can say will consistently reach a top two finish.

“Whilst we showed pieces of what we work on during the week, we didn’t turn our superiority up front into points.

“That’s something historically that we haven’t had, in terms of knowing how to beat teams up front and it’s something we need to learn.”

Forward dominance became a pattern of the match from early into Saturday’s encounter, with Andy Boyde and Jake Brady both powerful forces from the second row.

We were pretty dominant in the scrum which is the big thing from the day.

Mike Aspinall

However the first score was a home penalty from Johnny Morris when Harrogate went offside after a series of midfield mistakes.

Dazzling Harrogate back attacks followed featuring Harry Parrish, Luke Edwards, Minikin and Sam Bottomley.

However their first try came after Boyde stripped the ball from a Lucs forward drive and ran 20 metres to the goal line with power and pace. Bottomley was in support to score.

The Lucs pack then hit a purple patch and mounted a series of forward drives from good line-out ball.

Mike Cheasley drove strongly and fed number eight Danny Smith who crashed over for a good try.

Parrish then supported a trademark Bottomley break to score and put Harrogate 10-8 ahead at the interval.

The second half started with Boyde and Willem Enslin dominating the close quarter exchanges and Chris Wilson ruling the lines-out.

However, Harrogate went offside and Morris’ kick put Lucs back in front.

That was more or less the end of the game as a contest as the Harrogate backs then raised their game to take control.

A Minikin penalty restored the lead then Tim Heaton stole Lucs’ line-out ball to set up another attack. Cam Leadley carried the move on, passed to Edwards who fed Minikin for an excellent converted try.

An attempted Lucs counter attack ended when Irvine, Harrogate’s replacement stand-off intercepted a pass to race in from half way to sore another converted try.

Luctonians fought to the end and a powerful run from flanker Matt Hackley was supported by replacement hooker Jordan Street who scored a consolation converted try.

Next up for Harrogate is a home clash to newly-promoted Sandal, who have started the season with two wins.

After a poor afternoon in the line-out on Saturday, Aspinall has dropped 21-year-old hooker Tom Larder to the second team with Nico Nyemba replacing him in the scrum and Aarin Yorke stepping up to the bench.

Irvine will earn his first start of the season at fly-half with Barry Frost stepping back to full-back in the absence of Harry Parrish.

Nino Cutino could also miss the clash after injuring his hamstring on Saturday.

Sandal have beaten Harrogate on the last two occasions the teams have met, when they were both in National Three North in the 2012/13 campaign.

Aspinall added: “Sandal have had quite a consistent group since we played them last and we know most of their boys.

“We have massive respect for them. They didn’t need to win their first two games for us to know that it will be a difficult game. It didn’t surprise me that they swept Luctonians aside on the opening day, but then to go and win at Stourbridge shows how good a team they are. Not many teams will do that this year.

“If we perform like we did against Luctonians, we will lose against Sandal. We will have to raise our performance.”

Luctonians: Burton, Kelly, Langdon, Morris, Norris, T Jones, Boxhall, M Jones, Garner, White, Cheasley, Freydell, Monkley, Hackley, Smith. Substitutes (all used);- Powell, Street, Dines, Talbot, Hodnett

Harrogate: Parrish, Bottomley, Minikin, Leadley, Edwards, Frost, Matthews, Cutino, Larder, Boothman, Brady, Boyde, Wilson, Heaton, Enslin. Replacements (all used):- Nyemba, Ward, Coser, Irvine, Wickham

Referee: Brendan McGaffney (RFU)