Preston Grasshoppers vs Harrogate
In a reverse of what happened in November, Hoppers dominated the first half but, from being 17-3 down at the interval, Harrogate came back strongly to win the second half and secure what could prove to be a crucial bonus point.
The Preston scrum was in complete control in the first half but it then became a more even contest as Harrogate’s superior fitness told.
Preston’s first ry came from a powerful scrum drive and flanker Ollie Trippier crashed over for a try. The second try followed the same pattern. Harrogate’s scrum was penalised and Hoppers’ stand-off Alex Ward put in a huge line kick to gain them an attacking line-out. Harrogate were penalised at the breakdown, Preston opted for a scrum and Paul Arnold scored.
Harrogate prop, Charley Purkiss-McEndoo then made a powerful midfield break which took him into the home 22. Jonny Coser was in support but a desperate tackle forced him into touch just short of the goal line. Luke White fielded a steepling Preston kick and cross kicked for winger Harry Jukes. Oli Rosillo supported his break to scythe through the defence and touch down under the posts. Inexplicably, the referee disallowed the try but awarded Harrogate a penalty which White duly kicked.
More Hoppers pressure followed and a gap was created for flanker Ally Murray to burst through for a try converted by Jake Squirrel. However, Harrogate were coming more and more into the game and, towards the end of the half, Rosillo’s dazzling run cut through the home defence. Preston were penalised resulting in a Harrogate attacking line-out. A try appeared to have been scored but was disallowed and it was still 17-3 at half time.
Harrogate’s scrummaging got better as the game progressed and they definitely had the edge in the line-out where they stole several Preston throws, mainly through Coser and Sam Brady. However, Preston’s final try, which secured them a bonus point, again came from a strong scrum. No8 Matt Lamprey crashed over and Squirrel converted.
With half an hour remaining, Harrogate upped their game forcing increasingly desperate home defence. An Aarin Yorke interception was quickly passed to Andy Boyde who committed the tackler before passing to substitute, centre Luke Riddell and the attack continued. Another powerful Lamprey run ended when he was unceremoniously dumped by Harrogate scrum half, Danny Matthews. Substitute flanker, Martin Dodds made his presence felt and there several searing breaks from full back, Rosillo. Harrogate’s pack was now in complete ascendency in the loose and, with two minutes remaining, Boyde drove through to score a converted try. More was to come. In the dying moments, another Harrogate driving maul led to a Tim Heaton try. In normal circumstances, this would have been a reasonably straightforward conversion but it was the last kick of the match and so much depended on it. However, cool hand Luke kept his nerve, made the conversion and the game was over.
Preston Grasshoppers: Jordan, Meadows, Stott, Fitzpatrick, Crossley, A Ward, Squirrel, Mabaya, Milea, Altham, Arnold, Roddy, A Murray, Trippier, Lamprey. Subs:- Madden, Gale, M Murray.
Harrogate: Rosillo, Jukes, Barnard, Lawson, Lansdall, White, Matthews, Purkiss-McEndoo, Yorke, C Ward, Boyde, Brady, Heaton, J Coser, Harvey. Subs:- Butler, Dodds, Riddell.
Referee: Matt Riley (Northern)
Match report by Bill Barrack