Harrogate vs Wirral
Bad weather postponements meant that this was Harrogate’s first game for 5 weeks and the ring rustiness showed.
However, although both sides scored 3 tries, Harrogate led throughout the match and deserved the win which laid the ghost of their poor performance at Wirral in September.
Harrogate’s defence was penalised in the first minute and Wirral kicked to gain an attacking line-out. However, Jonny Coser “stole” line-out ball and Harrogate attacked only to lose possession. Skilled Wirral inter passing seemed certain to result in an under the posts try but Danny Matthews covered back to put in a magnificent saving tackle. Another Wirral attack was halted by a crunching Andrew Lawson midfield hit, the ball went loose, Lawson kicked on and won the chase to score a try converted by Luke White.
A Harrogate attack from deep was halted illegally but White’s penalty attempt, from inside his own half, was narrowly short. More well worked Wirral moves gave a scoring opportunity to winger Mark Williams whose strength and tenacity took him over for a try in the corner. The Harrogate pack was well in command in the scrums and threatened Wirral’s line with driving mauls. Wirral went offside and White’s penalty extended the home lead. More Harrogate drives followed and, on the stroke of half time, Aarin Yorke squeezed over from a maul to make it 15-5 at the interval.
Wirral attacked strongly from the restart to put pressure on Harrogate’s line and quick ball led to a try for stand-off Craig Harvey converted by Jimmy Annetts. Stung by this, the Harrogate backs began to string some promising moves together and space was created for David Doherty to outpace the defence and score a converted try. Harrogate’s forward superiority was the difference between the sides with young tight head prop, Harry Butler in dominant scrummaging form along with some powerful “carries”. However, the next score came from the classy Wirral full back, Annetts to make it 22-17 and give them a potential bonus point.
With 10 minutes remaining, a White penalty proved to be the game’s final score though, in the last move of the match, he put in a good cross kick which seemed certain to result in a Doherty try. However, the ball bounced wickedly into touch before he could reach it and the final whistle blew. It was actually the last time that the referee will blow a whistle for a while as he emigrates to Australia next week.
Harrogate: Rosillo, Naylor, Edwards, Lawson, Doherty, White, Matthews, Purkiss-McEndoo, Yorke, Butler,
T Harvey, Brady, J Coser, G Coser, Heaton. Subs:- Young, Boyde, Lansdall
Wirral: Annetts, Williams, D Harvey, Broadbent, Loon, C Harvey, Hughes, Stead, Gratton, Prendergast, Long, Dalton, Pearl, Reeves, Mahon. Subs:- Burkes, Lewis, Dowler
Referee: Jordan Wagner (Northern).
Match report by Bill Barrack