Harrogate weathered an early storm from Ionians and then hit a purple patch to score 3 crucial first half tries
A fourth try earned them a crucial bonus point shortly after half time and Harrogate’s outstanding defence kept Ionians at bay for the rest of the game.
Harrogate mounted waves of inventive attacks from the onset but a knock on led to Ionians possession and they showed why they’ve had such a recent good run of results. Full-back, Mike Bateman, split the home defence with a powerful 40 metre run but was forced into touch just short of the goal line. More Hull attacks followed though Harrogate’s creative half backs, Craig Hampson and Mike Aspinall set up dangerous counter attacks. An Aspinall break was supported by Sam Bottomley who powered through for the games opening try, converted by Aspinall.
A few more minutes of home pressure followed and also another converted Bottomley try to make it 14-0. Waves of Hull pressure on the home line followed and scrum half, Adam Thomas, forced his way through the defence to put the visitors on the score sheet. This spurred more Harrogate attacks and a strong Ryan Peacey drive created space for Toby Quarendon to dart through under the posts for another converted try. The half ended with 2 consecutive Harrogate offside offences and an Ionians penalty goal from Marshall made it 21-8 at the break.
Harrogate attacked again from the restart, set up a series of driving mauls from which Peacey squirmed through to score. This turned out to be the match’s final result but the game was by no means over.
Harrogate threatened sporadically in attack but it was mainly their defence which had to withstand an Ionians’ pounding. Hull had the edge in the scrums but Harrogate stole several vital lines-out to relieve pressure. Second row, Tom Harvey, excelled in tight and loose play and inspired Tim Heaton and the rest of the home pack to heroically defend the line.
Harrogate: Smithjies, Ellison, Bottomley (Minikin 30), Quarendon, Heylings, Aspinall, Hampson, Bergmanas (Fraser 40), Maycock (Yorke 69), Browne, Harvey, S Brady (Wilson 65), Heaton, Tyson, Peacey (Beaumont 65)
Hull Ionians: Bateman, Wilson, Marns, Marshall, Stephenson (L Thundercliffe 69) , Boyd (Bowring 63, Thomas, A Thundercliffe (J Thundercliffe 69), Forth, Johnson, Sanders, Kench, Noonan (Jackson 33), Wod, Hague (Rice 42).
Star Man: Tom Harvey (Harrogate)
Referee: Guy Steele-Bodger (RFU)
Match Report by Bill Barrack