Wirral vs Harrogate
By Peter Kitching
This was a strange match. Wirral won the toss and elected to play the first half into the teeth of howling gale.
In spite of this, they dominated possession but failed to breach Harrogate’s excellent defence. Harrogate faced the wind in the second but, in a complete reversal of play, they dominated possession and, though there were some very close calls, Wirral’s defence held out. After 6 minutes second half play, Wirral got into Harrogate’s half for the first time, Harrogate went offside and James Annetts kicked a long range penalty. This turned out to be the only score of the match.
Harrogate were forced to defend stoutly from the start. Their good scrummaging would normally have won enough ball to set up counter attacks but uncharacteristic communication breakdowns between the back row and scrum half led to loose ball which was snapped up by Joe Murray, Wirral’s sharp scrum half. The Wirral pressure forced Harrogate to concede penalties but, because of the wind, they opted for attacking scrums rather than kicks at goal. The Harrogate scrum was more than equal to dealing with this. In the dying moments of the half, flanker Guy Coser was yellow carded for slowing down a Wirral forward drive though the Harrogate consensus of opinion was that the referee got the wrong Coser.
Harrogate dominated second half possession so it was the turn of Wirral’s defence to show their quality. Experienced forwards Sam Brady and Andy Boyde came off the bench for Harrogate and made a big difference to the necessary tight, controlled forward play. Annett’s early second half penalty goal seemed only to be a temporary blip as Harrogate seemed to be in such control. Wirral flanker, James Reeve was yellow carded for reasons similar to Harrogate’s 1st half binning but the home defence still held out. Both Boyde and winger Andrew Lawson came within fractions of an inch of scoring but it was not to be.
Wirral: Crowley, Williams, Annetts, Speed, Brooks, Harvey, Murray, Yarker, Gratton, Higginson, Lewis, Dalton, Parry, Reeve, Pearl. Subs:- Light, Stead, Loon
Harrogate: Rosillo, Lawson, Wyman, Edwards, Lansdall, Fox, Matthews, Driscoll, Yorke, Maycock, Millington, Watts, Dodds, G Coser, J Coser. Subs:- Boyde, Brady, Riddell
Referee: Jack Le Feuvre (Northern)
Match report by Bill Barrack