Harrogate vs Sandal
By Peter Kitching
In a highly competitive game, Harrogate duly ended their season with a tenth successive win.
Elsewhere, Blaydon’s thrashing of already relegated Vale of Lune had ensured that Harrogate missed any chance of promotion but, in truth, they had to concentrate on today’s match where an excellent Sandal side fully tested the home defence.
Sandal won possession from their own kick-off and launched a series of attacks but Harrogate countered from deep and the strong running Harry Barnard was forced into touch just short of the Sandal goal line. An excellent Nathan Wyman tackle ended another Sandal foray but, in the ensuing maul, Sandal stand-off, Luke Punton, sustained a serious elbow injury and had to be replaced. In his unaccustomed full back role, Andrew Lawson fielded testing Sandal kicks and his powerful running turned defence into attack.
A Harrogate attacking spell followed with Luke Edwards’s direct running being complemented by Wyman’s silky skills. The Phil Wickham/Danny Matthews half back combination orchestrated the attacks with pacey wingers Barnard and Conor Miller testing the visiting defence. An injury to Sandal hooker, Jamie Heron led to him having to be replaced but their re-jigged front row actually improved their scrummaging.
The stalemate was broken after half an hour when Sandal opted for a scrum from a penalty, drove strongly and former Harrogate scrum half, Will Morecombe darted over to score. Harrogate’s James Millington then had to leave the field with an ankle injury to be replaced by Aarin Yorke. A powerful Lawson run from deep carved Sandal’s defence wide open but a miskicked chip ended the move. However, he wasn’t to be denied and was on hand to score after a 25 metres Harrogate driving maul. Wyman’s conversion made it 7-5 but, almost immediately Harrogate went offside in defence and Joe Bedford’s kick made the half time score 7-8.
The second half opened with an even period of play but Harrogate’s forward power and general superior fitness was starting to tell. Andy Boyde’s strength and experience was at the heart of this, well supported by second row partner, Sam Brady. Front row forwards Charley Purkiss-McEndoo, Steve Maycock and Connor Ward were increasingly effective in the loose. Jonny Coser’s inspirational No8 drives were well supported by Yorke and Hugo Tasker. It was this forward dominance which led to the next try. A Tasker break led to a Harrogate attacking line out, Boyde drove strongly and Brady was in support to score a converted try. Sandal were still very much in the game and Harrogate’s defence was fully tested by strong running centres Simon Frewin and James Ellar. However, Sandal’s defence went offside in midfield and Wyman’s penalty made it 17-8.
Harrogate won turnover ball on their own goal line and Lawson launched a counter attack. The ball was slipped to Barnard who turned defence into attack with a blistering 60 metres run and passed to the supporting Wyman. His attacking chip was fractionally too long and Sandal won the chase for the ball. The next try came from a succession of Harrogate driving mauls from which Tasker powered over to score and Wyman’s touchline conversion made it 24-8.
Though Harrogate’s pack was basically in control, Sandal continued with impressively well worked attacks whenever possible and won an attacking line-out after Harrogate were penalised for an adjudged “no arms” tackle. Frewin’s strong run was supported by winger Cameron Lee for a consolation try at the end of the match.
Harrogate: Lawson, Barnard, Wyman, Edwards, Miller, Matthews, Wickham, Purkiss-McEndoo, Maycock, Ward, Boyde, Brady, Millington, Tasker, Coser. Subs:- Yorke, Polesi, Cookland
Sandal: Fawcett, Lee, Frewin, Ellar, Grainger, Punton, Bedford, Elder, Heron, Baxter, A Thompson, Stewart, E Thompson, Fountain, Carolan. Subs:- Purcell, Jackson, Morecombe.
Referee: Ben Moore (NW).
Match report by Bill Barrack