Harrogate Rugby Club’s U-15s team crowned a magnificent season with a 24-15 victory in the final of Yorkshire’s premier cup competition last Sunday at West Park, Leeds.
They did it the hard way, having been drawn against the holders Sandal in the first round back in October. They battled past the likes of Ilkley, Otley and West Park to make it through to the final against a very strong York side.
The morning of the final dawned bright but with a very gusty wind, making kicking very difficult.
Harrogate, deemed by neutrals to be the underdogs in this tie, got off to a good start with sustained pressure culminating in a try as Zac Berrill crashed over in the corner.
As expected, York came back strongly scoring a well-worked, converted try under the posts, and extended their lead with a penalty to move 10-5 in front.
As some on the sidelines started to fear the worst, Harrogate showed character and resilience in arguably their best forwards performance of the season.
Time and again they tackled, rucked and mauled with determination, laying the platform for a great breakaway by Jonathan Ashman who scored with a fist-pumping flourish under the posts. The try converted by George Hampson meant that Harrogate went into half time leading 12-10.
With wind at their backs in the second half Harrogate were confident of further territorial gains but York showed their quality by creating and finishing yet another well worked try and so the pendulum swung back in their favour.
Fortunately for Harrogate the difficult kicking conditions meant York were unable to convert the try and a further penalty Harrogate had conceded under concerted pressure.
Neither team were willing to take a step backwards and after some crunching tackles on both sides, Harrogate managed to score another try, Joe Smith finally getting the ball down once again, personifying the belligerent determination of all the forwards.
A great individual moment for Joe, who had been injured in the weeks coming up to the game and had feared that he would not be able to play.
At 17-15, to Harrogate the contest was too close to call.
York threw everything at Harrogate and last-gasp tackles and forced errors managed to keep the score the same until the last seconds of the game.
A moment of magic by Joe Richardson saw him intercept the ball, evade a tackle and feed IT to Jonathan Ashman who scored under the posts.
A nonchalant, dropkicked conversion by Joe himself brought the final whistle and a great victory.