Emphatic Harrogate go try crazy in Stockport win

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Deadly Harrogate piled misery on rock-bottom Stockport with an electric attacking performance to move up to fifth in National Two North.

Gate exerted their class to rattle in nine tries and dominate the contest from start to finish.

However, the damage handed out by the Cockerels could have still been far worse if they had shown greater discipline at the breakdown - a problem which has clouded their strong start to the season.

Gate played 20 minutes of the match without their full compliment on the field, including one ten minute spell with two men reflecting on their ill-discipline in the sin bin.

But while Stockport were able to capitalise twice, the league’s whipping boys were unable to create any real alarm for Mike Aspinall’s troops who were cruise in control.

Gate rested Tim Heaton for the clash, while former captain Jimmy Browne answered an SOS call to be amongst the subs’ bench following a dearth of front-rowers available.

It took exactly two seconds for Gate to lay down a foundation for the game. Following Callum Irvine’s high kick-off, South African number eight Willem Enslin smashed Stockport’s receiver with a crunching tackle.

However Gate gave away two early penalties to gift Stockport an escape route from their own half. But the struggling side lost possession at an attacking line-out, thanks to Chris Wilson’s giant rise to steal and Luke Edwards made the opening burst of speed by a Gate back. That followed a couple of neat exchanges before Callum Irvine darted right and then left to leave Stockport’s defence in his wake and score the first try, with only three minutes on the clock. Full-back Joe Rowntree added the two from underneath the posts.

Stockport fly-half Josh Longmore had less success from the tee, as he slashed a penalty attempt wide minutes later. And it was costly as Gate soon moved 12 points to the good with flanker Noel Minikin striding clear down the left, however Rowntree missed the difficult resulting kick.

It soon became clear that every time Gate were on the attack they looked like scoring. And on 14 minutes, Luke Edwards found space to dive over, following brutal forward drives by Jake Brady and Tom Harvey.

Inside 20 minutes, Gate had assured themselves of a bonus point as hooker Nico Nyemba finished off another speedy attack down the left.

Simply put, Stockport could not live with Gate’s pace.

However, despite the dominance, the home penalty count continued to rise alarmingly, gifting Stockport possession.

Another line-out steal from Wilson ended a sustained piece of pressure by the visitors before they were reduced to 14 for ten minutes when Dave Hopkins caught the onrushing Luke Edwards with a high tackle.

James Audsley-Beck missed one chance to take advantage after spilling close to the try-line, but Minikin made up for it moments after with another crashing run to cross over with acres of space in the middle. It didn’t take long for winger Audsley-Beck to get himself in the statistics book as he took Harrogate’s tally to 40 with a sensational acceleration of speed.

Such was Harrogate’s dominance, Minikin and Wilson were given a breather midway through the half, allowing youngster Joe Lowes and Nathan Smith a chance to shine.

However Lowes was too eager to make an impression, and he was the first Gate player sin-binned for offside following a penalty at the scrum.

With the man advantage, Stockport were able to enjoy their best spell of sustained pressure and after a number of phases by their forwards, scrum-half Mark Edwards touched down at the back of a ruck. The resistance was brief, however, and Irvine’s brilliant cross-field kick in the first half’s final move was caught by Audsley-Beck to touch down - Rowntree smashing a beautiful kick between the posts.

Gate’s sprint-king soon had his hat-trick when the teams re-emerged, flying down the left wing to race through the visiting defence.

Once again, though, penalties came back to bite Gate. And in succession, Nathan Smith and Andy Boyde were sent to the bin for separate infringements at the breakdown.

Stockport were able to take advantage of the extra men, and under a fierce drive they scored a converted try down the right.

However, stout defence by the stricken hosts prevented any further scores against, while Irvine’s precise kicking found touch on a number of occasions. Browne had his moment with fellow prop Boyde in the bin and he gave two telling blows to show he had lost none of his power in retirement.

In contrast, Stockport were scrappy in possession and had the ball turned over on too many occasions.

Centre Lewis Minikin wrapped up the scoring with the ninth home try - and seventh converted) following another pin-point Irvine kick into Audsley-Beck’s midriff. However, the former Colt was denied adding to his tally late on as the referee Matthew Turvey disallowed his second burst over the try-line for an earlier knock-on.