Underdogs Harrogate clinched a first Yorkshire Cup triumph in 12 years after surprising Wharfedale 16-12 in a feisty final at West Park Leeds last night.
Sam Bottomley’s second half try proved decisive as Harrogate outbattled their higher league opponents and claimed their tenth county triumph - 110 years after their first
It looked as though National One Wharfedale could steamroll the contest early on as Dan Solomi’s piercing run left Harrogate standing still for the opening try on six minutes.
However, Harrogate were almost in for a levelling try following Bottomley’s burst through the middle but Lewis Minikin spilled his pass when destined to score.
Harrogate lock Sam Brady was then binned for a late hit on Wharfe captain and key playmaker James Doherty, whose match was ended by the heavy impact.
The 14-men of Harrogate counter-attacked through the backs, and Callum Irvine kicked Gate’s opening points when Wharfedale went off their feet at the breakdown.
The strong Wharfedale pack took advantage of their extra man to force two penalties of their own but fly-half Jamie Guy missed both.
Wharfedale continued to operate with more power than Gate but stubborn resistance and Guy’s off-colour kicking kept the game nip and tuck.
The visibly pumped up Harrogate outfit, with captain Jake Brady leading by example, responded to the pressure with another Irvine penalty before a third chance fell his way on the stroke of half-time.
Wharfedale number eight Josh Burridge was sin-binned for a late challenge on Irvine, and the fly-half put his side ahead into the half-time interval with another precision kick.
The man advantage in the second-half saw Harrogate take the initiative. And their dominance brought a fine try down the left, when Bottomley darted in from his wing after Luke Edwards carved the space.
It was then Harrogate’s turn to go down a player as Kerry Wood infringed a driving maul close to the try line. From the resultant line-out, Wharfe’s forwards forced the ball over under a spree of bodies, but again, Guy missed the kick.
Harrogate again regrouped with 14 players, and after Wood returned, Willem Enslin looked destined to score from the move of the match but he was taken into touch on the left wing a metre from the try-line.
Huge Harrogate pressure followed as they ate away at the dying minutes. And despite a late surge forward from Wharfedale, Gate’s victory was secured with a final penalty.