However, “it’s early days”, there have been high scoring matches elsewhere so, after a few more weeks, we’ll have a more realistic appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses in the League. In the opening game of the 2001/12 season, Harrogate thrashed Leicester Lions away to go top of National League 2 and still got relegated at the end of the season.
After an even start, Ilkley scrum half Blake Morgan broke strongly to set up a promising attack which ended with a knock-on. A big Harrogate scrum pressurised the hosts but Harrogate lost possession and Ilkley attacked again. Full back, Doc Doherty gathered an attacking chip and set up a counter attack from his own goal line. From another powerful Harrogate scrum, the ball was spread quickly for Doherty to make the extra man and score in the corner. Sam Fox’s touchline conversion made it 0-7.
An Ilkley attack was ended by a Martin Dodds turnover and a huge Fox clearance led to an Ilkley defensive line-out. Again, the ball was quickly transferred through the Harrogate backs for Doherty’s second try which put Harrogate 0-12 ahead after 15 minutes. More was to follow. Doherty, Dodds and Fox all feature strongly in concerted Harrogate attacks and a strong Harry Barnard run was supported by debutant winger, Sam Parry who scored another converted try.
Ilkley continued to compete strongly but a knock-on over the Harrogate goal line denied them a score. More Harrogate attacks followed and a Danny Matthews break seemed to have set up a try but the “scoring pass” was knocked on. Dominant Harrogate scrummaging kept up the pressure and Sam Brady crashed over in support of a strong Jonny Coser break to score another converted try and make the half-time score 0-26.
Harrogate continued to attack from the restart and debutant 2nd Row, Brandon Hannam, a former Ilkley player, made some impressive drives. The Harrogate scrummaging continually kept Ilkley on the back foot but the home side continued to compete and an even period of play followed. Harrogate’s well organized defence had been a big feature but Ilkley centre, Callum Smithson took advantage of some uncharacteristic poor tackling to score a try converted by Chuckie Ramsay.
Powerful Harrogate forward drives followed with Hugo Tasker, Tom Driscoll, Dom Musetti, Brady and Hannam featuring prominently. Quick ball was then recycled for Parry to score his second try. Ilkley still attacked at every opportunity but Harrogate’s defence held firm with an impressive tackle from substitute centre, Ben Thewliss. Harrogate upped their game still further in the final stages and a strong Brady run set up an attacking position. Ilkley’s defence fumbled a Harrogate cross-kick and the predatory Doherty was on hand to score the game’s final converted try.
Ilkley: Malley, Bolland, H Harrison, Smithson, Johnson, Ramsay, Morgan, Holtman, Wales, Nicholls, Erskine, King, Fraser, Lowes, Rowntree. Subs:- Lawrence, Graham, Nots
Harrogate: Doherty, Lansdall, Barnard, Fox, Parry, Matthews, Wickham, Martin, Driscoll, Musetti, Brady, Hannam, Doddsd, Tasker, Coser. Subs:- Maycock, Cummings, Thewliss
Referee Tom Doig (North)
Match report by Bill Barrack