Billingham vs Harrogate
A succession of injury cry-offs led to Harrogate travelling to second placed Billingham with a much changed team.
Notwithstanding promising performances from some of the newcomers, these changes proved to be a step too far against an efficient, well drilled Billingham team. The better team on the day undoubtedly won.
An early Harrogate high tackle led to a Billingham penalty from which they elected to go for a scrum. Harrogate’s powerful scrummaging quickly disabused Billingham of the wisdom of that tactic. However, a Harrogate knock-on restored home possession and the ball was quickly spread to winger Matthew Kirby. His try was converted by Billingham’s excellent stand-off, Pete Evans.
A powerful Sam Brady run was well supported and Aarin Yorke, in an unaccustomed wing forward position, was held up just short of the goal line. Possession was retained and the outstanding Martin Dodds powered over to score. Well constructed Billingham attacks followed leading to a converted try from centre Luke Wilson. An adjudged deliberate Harrogate knock-on then led to a Billingham penalty goal to make their lead 17-5.
A Harrogate attack was halted by a high tackle which was penalised. A Harrogate forward drive followed the penalty but they were penalised for holding. Luke Watts and Brady were punching holes in the home defence forcing Billingham to go offside. Brady crashed over to score from the subsequent attacking line-out and Sam Fox’s conversion made it 17-12.
Dynamic play from Brady, Kieron Forbes, Charley Purkiss-McEndoo and Connor Ward tested Billingham’s defence but they regained possession and another good backs move led to a try from full back, Martin Hopley. Harrogate attacked strongly for the rest of the half but Billingham held out.
Almost immediately after the resumption, a Billingham penalty goal extended their lead and then Pete Evans danced through Harrogate’s defence for an excellent individual try converted by himself. A Forbes turnover sparked a Harrogate counter, Brady took the move on and winger Harry Barnard outstripped the defence to score. Harrogate continued to attack but again lost possession and No8 Dan Dixon scored on the right to make it 39-17.
Harrogate’s set piece superiority continued to frustrate Billingham and this resulted in a dust up. However, they regained possession and spread the ball wide for a try by winger, Alfie Lawson. A loose pass from another Billingham attack was then snapped up by Harrogate’s Andrew Lawson whose pace took him clear for a 60 metres try which earned Harrogate a bonus point.
Billingham: Hopley, Alfie Lawson, J Evans, Wilson, Kirby, P Evans, Fewster, Sundley, Foulds, Spoors, McAlorum, Whinn, Burns, Richardson, Dixon. Subs:- Wallace, Walton, Gardner
Harrogate: Rosillo, Barnard, Andrew Lawson, Watts, Lansdall, Fox, Matthews, Purkiss-McEndoo, Driscool, Ward, Brady, Dodds, G Coser, Yorke, Forbes. Subs:- Harris, Miller, Miniklin
Referee: Dave Charlton (North)
Match report by Bill Barrack