Rugby Union: Harrogate player pride at its best ahead of Otley derby

Harrogate Rugby against Hull on Saturday (Photo by Richard Bown)
Harrogate Rugby against Hull on Saturday (Photo by Richard Bown)

In-form Harrogate Rugby head into this weekend’s derby as strong as they have been in decades.

That is the belief of director of rugby Mike Aspinall, who has overseen the run of six straight victories that has taken them up to third in National Two North.

Harrogate scored four tries at Claro Road on Saturday to cement third spot with a bonus-point victory over Hull.

Aspinall said: “Life at Harrogate is good. The guys would say it feels as good as it has been in a long time.

“I wouldn’t like to quote how long team manager Graham Siswick he has been here but he says it’s the best he has ever seen it.

“It’s a really good environment. We’ve got that winning habit and I don’t want to lose it.”

The long-running Yorkshire rivalry with Otley has stoked up several gripping encounters over the last few years. And the reverse fixture earlier this season saw Aspinall’s Harrogate side pip the West Yorkshiremen 26-25 in a Claro Road classic.

Like Gate, Otley have hit the ground running this season and sit sixth, following three victories in their last four matches – including a surprise win over league leader Hull Ionians.

However, Saturday’s hosts missed a chance to move one place below Harrogate on Saturday with a heavy 40-12 defeat at Chester.

More than a thousand spectators are expected to turn up at Cross Green and Aspinall urged Harrogate’s support to turn out in their masses and drown out the home support.

He said: “It’s just a great game. This is why you are involved. There will be an extra buzz around the ground and with the supporters.

“We managed to silence them last year with a really good performance at Cross Green just before Christmas.

“It’s a nice ground which you get an atmosphere off the stands and I hope Harrogate will come out and support us there.

“I would like to silence their crowd with our rugby and feel like we are only just down the road and get the Harrogate crowd going.”

Aspinall believes the success Harrogate have seen this year is the product of the club’s effective rotation policy.

The coach has chopped and changed his starting line-up throughout the season, and promoted a number of younger players to gain experience.

He added: “We are keeping people engaged into what we are doing here. We are giving younger players more game time and experience.

“This is National Two, it’s a professional league and it’s a results business, managing that is the challenge but at the moment we are getting it right.

“Week to week we are having a challenge in selection. I’m glad I have players disappointed because that means I have motivated guys that want to get a shirt each week.

“Nobody wants to give up their shirt because they fear a guy coming in for an opportunity. That feeling is where we are strong.

“You could say it’s effective as long as you keep winning. For me, long term it’s not it being effective when you win, it’s just effective.”