Harrogate favourites to reach second Yorkshire Cup final

Harrogate lifted the Yorkshire Cup with victory over Wharfedale last year (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
Harrogate lifted the Yorkshire Cup with victory over Wharfedale last year (Photo: Caught Light Photography)
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Mike Aspinall will use Harrogate’s own giant-killing antics to motivate his players against falling to a similar fate in tonight’s hotly-anticipated Yorkshire Cup semi-final.

Harrogate travel to lower league Doncaster Phoenix tonight – in a match that could be Aspinall’s last in charge at Rudding Lane.

Following the cancellation of Saturday’s league match at Macclesfield, a defeat at the hands of the Northern Division North One East side would spell the end of Harrogate’s 2015/16 campaign.

‘Gate will have the favourites’ tag hanging around their neck as holders of the competition and due to their National Two status.

But Aspinall refused to belittle the Doncaster opponents, who are managed by former Harrogate forwards coach Andy Ellis, and said his side would treat them like any other National Two side.

“They have only lost one or two competitive fixtures in the last two years. Regardless of certain league position, they are obviously going to be a very good team.

The moment Harrogate won the Yorkshire Cup in 2015 (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

The moment Harrogate won the Yorkshire Cup in 2015 (Photo: Caught Light Photography)

“We have not seen them but we know they are going to be a very difficult team to beat.

“I don’t feel like there’s any ego in our side and in our group. We are very aware that we beat Wharfedale in the final last year as underdogs and we have to learn from that.

“We were the better team on the day and we took the cup home. We have the challenge now to be the better team on the day for the next two weeks and we can take it home again.”

Sheffield Tigers await the winner in the final next Wednesday, which is set to be played at Pontefract.

Aspinall hopes to extend the season so that the final will be his last game in charge of Harrogate with Yorkshrie Carnegie winger Dave Doherty stepping into his shoes as director of rugby next season.

“If things don’t go well, that’s it which is a scary thought from my point of view,” he said.

“We have two games left as a group. We want to do that justice. If we perform as well as we can perform, we will win those games.

“I hope I am not proved wrong. There’s no arrogance in this group. We want to be remembered as the team that won back to back Yorkshire Cups.”

Harrogate have named the same starting line-up which beat Otley 11 days ago while prop Will Dennis will make his first club appearance from the replacements.

Sam Bottomley will start on the wing against the team he represented as a junior.

Harrogate: L Minikin, Bottomley, Nesbitt, Edwards, Barnard, Irvine, Matthews, Ward, Yorke, Reaveley, J Brady, S Brady, Harvey, J Coser, Enslin.

Subs: Will Dennis, Aarin Yorke, Jose Preece, Chris Wilson, Rob Flett, Phil Wickham and Jonny Giles will also feature as replacements.