Harrogate Ladies through to National final after 61-5 defeat of Bletchley
By Helena Landau
The side steam through semi-final with 61 points scored against the Midlands side
Head Coach, John Hardy’s thoughts on the match were positive, he believes “it was a strong performance from the whole squad against a very good Bletchley team”.
Bletchley have just topped the Championship Midlands 2 League. However, Harrogate made their first of two successive meetings with them count, beating them by 61 points to 5.
Hardy doesn’t want his team to become complacent though, he told us “we need to keep working hard in training and remain focussed for the second meeting at Newark in order to achieve our promotion goal”
The teams meet again on 7th April, where they will battle it out for promotion into Championship North 1. Harrogate hope this will be their third successive promotion in as many seasons.
Harrogate kicked off to start Sunday’s match at the Stratstone Stadium, applying immediate pressure. They chased the kick down and were right in Bletchley’s faces when they received the ball.
Harrogate made their mark in the first 2 minutes, by winning the ball back from the restart and scoring the first try of the game. Full back, Lauren Bolger touched down. It was clear Bletchley were going to create Harrogate more problems than any other team had this season from the offset though.
Second row, Annie Lyles applied consistent pressure on the opposition. Lyles made 4 tackles in succession, allowing hooker, Maisie Barnett to win the ball back in the breakdown.
Captain, Rose Jay then danced her way through the defence and set up Simone Christopher on the wing which saw the second of the day scored. Harrogate were 10-0 ahead within as many minutes of play.
Prop, Christine Pratt caught the kick effortlessly and charged through a number of the Bletchley defence. The ball was lost further up the field but not for long, thanks to flanker, Lauren Clarkson. Clarkson turned over and allowed Anna Hamilton to take the ball forward on an impressive run.
When Bletchley next had the ball their winger showed what she could do. She evaded three Harrogate tackles before she was eventually shepherded into touch by Bolger.
Following the line out Bletchley make the mistake of kicking, right into the hands of Bolger. She made her way up the pitch with haste before offloading to winger, Rachel Demoraes.
Demoraes made more ground before involving Clarkson and Jay. It was Alex Wallace who then got her hands on the ball before passing out to Sarah Foster.
Foster blasted through a bunched up Bletchley to cross the whitewash.
After the restart there was more impressive work from Lyles on display, she made a break and shipped it out to Christopher after drawing in the Bletchley defence. Christopher touched down for a second time. The conversion followed and the score was sat at 22-0 half an hour in.
Harrogate were then down to 14 after a yellow was awarded for a series of high tackles. This didn’t phase the home side though, and 2 minutes later they scored their fifth of the match. Achele Agada paced it up the pitch before offloading to Christopher who in turn offloaded to her Captain, Jay. Jay had work to do but is too quick for Bletchley, she dived over to increase the score to 27-0.
Next up it was Hamilton’s turn to cross the whitewash after a relentless run up the pitch, evading many defenders on her way.
Lyles allowed her fellow forward, Agada to score one last try before half time after she put in a huge hit on Bletchley ensuring a knock on.
After play resumed, there was early pressure from the Midlands side on the home outfit. They had stepped it up a notch scoring 10 minutes after the interval.
Wallace responded immediately however, after a trademark hand off made an appearance she dived over to make it 42-5.
She scored again soon after, Jay made progress into Bletchley’s half before a wide pass out to Wallace who ran round half the team to score. The extras were kicked over, Harrogate were sitting comfortably at 49-5 with a quarter left.
In the last 20 minutes Wallace made her hatrick in the form of a one handed touchdown and Bolger bagged herself another too. The final score was 61-5 to the home side.
Player of the match performances were awarded to Annie Lyles for her solid, match long work in both attack and defence as well as to Simone Christopher and Achele Agada.
This win secures Harrogate’s place in the National Intermediate Cup Final, which will take place on Sunday 14th April at Derby RFU. Kick off will be at 4:30 pm and the team will take on London side, Old Albanions who have won their respective League in the South.
Before then of course, is Harrogate’s play off for promotion on Sunday 7th April at Newark RFU with a kick off time of 2:30 pm. The support which was shown to the team on Sunday was huge, and all support to the final two games of the season will be greatly received.