Harrogate Ladies take the league title with 3 matches still to play
By Helena Landau
Lucy Barnett’s outfit bring back a win from Birkenhead Park, putting a stop to a successful winning streak at home
Second in the league table, Birkenhead Park had not conceded a loss at home since early 2017. However, league leaders Harrogate were more than willing to end that their streak.
With a Harrogate kick off to start the match flanker, Lauren Clarkson responded with a huge dump tackle on the Birkenhead reciever. Her fellow flanker, Nieve Jones followed her lead and was all over the pitch, putting persistent pressure on the Birkenhead ball carriers.
This paid off when Jones forced the knock on, resulting in a Harrogate scrum deep in the Birkenhead half. The ball was shipped to fly half, Kelly Morgan who had support on her left and right. Morgan decided to make the dummy and go through herself though, she dived over the try line to make the first score.
Captain, Rose Jay caught the subsequent kick off and shipped the ball to Clarkson who showed off her fancy footwork. She offloaded to full back, Lauren Bolger who landed awkwardly suffering a minor knee injury.
Following Bolger’s premature but temporary exit from the pitch prop, Amber Barnicoat filled in at full back. Her fellow front row, Lizzy Mason powered through the dog legged Birkenhead defence to score between the sticks. Morgan converted and the score was 12-0 within 5 minutes of the whistle.
Next up, second row Achele Agada followed in Mason’s footsteps and touched down not once, but twice in succession.
Birkenhead battled back for the following 5 minutes. There was nearly a turnover in the scrum but under pressure, The home side knocked on.
On the charge, winger Simone Christopher was pushed out of play resulting in a line out close to the Harrogate try line.
Though Clarkson won the ball in the line, it went back out of play and it was second time lucky for Birkenhead. They made it count this time, shipping it through the hands to score on the left.
In response, Agada scored her hatrick before the end of the first half, Morgan kicked over the extras once more.
However the remaining 10 minutes involved the visitors defending their own try line, finally managing to force an error from Birkenhead to close the first half.
Harrogate entered the second half with 26 points to 5 on the scoreboard.
This was immediately increased after Clarkson scored a well deserved try. She was set up by Jones who recieved the kick, Morgan again added the extras.
Fullback, Bolger who had made a return to the pitch, kicked it long and raced her scrum half, Jay to the pick up.
The pacy Birkenhead winger pipped them both to the post and beat all 15 players to the Harrogate line. She touched down and added the extras too, it was 33-12 with a good quarter left to go.
Second row, Annie Lyles responded to the kick off. She carried on her consistent support which she showed in the first half and made a run to the try line. She was stopped just short but ensured Harrogate’s possession of the ball, allowing Jay to pass it out to Barnicoat who charged over the line.
The forwards played the phases once again and progressed up the pitch, it was Clarkson finished it off for them, scoring her second of the game.
Following this, Jay caught the kick. She took advantage of a stunned and staggered Birkenhead defence who just couldn’t catch her.
Birkenhead couldn’t put another one past Harrogate and it was Mason who was responsible for the final try of the match.
The final score was 57-12 to the visitors, Harrogate.
The Ladies take on Sunderland at home this Sunday, Kick off is 2 pm at the Stratstone stadium with all support gladly welcomed.