A dominant first-half performance wasn’t enough to save Harrogate RUFC from slipping to their sixth consecutive National Two North defeat, at Stourbridge.
A dynamic, highly-motivated Gate side had their promotion-chasing hosts reeling on the back foot for most of the first period, and their 7-0 half-time lead was scant reward for their superiority.
Stourbridge rallied in the third quarter, producing some quality back play to go 18-7 ahead, but it was all Harrogate thereafter and, although Oli Rossillo’s late try gave them a losing bonus point, it was scant reward for an outstanding team effort.
From the Stourbridge kick-off, a strong Tim Heaton aerial take set up a counter-attack with powerful forward drives producing good ball for half-backs Danny Matthews and Dicky Davies to launch a succession of skilful attacks.
Sustained forward pressure on the home line eventually led to Jonny Coser touching down for a try converted by Charlie Morgan.
Dave Doherty’s troops continued to press and Rossillo gathered a well-placed Davies chip at pace but was forced into touch just short of the line.
With Harrogate’s pack absolutely dominant and camped out on the Stourbridge line, desperate home defence conceded a string of penalties and most spectators expected a yellow card to be awarded long before hooker, Jack Lea was eventually sent to the sin-bin.
The visiting front row of Connor Ward, Steve Maycock and Ben Reaveley had their opposite numbers in all sorts of trouble, while Sam Brady had a towering game in the second row, with his brother Jake as inspirationally effective as ever.
Dynamic back row play from the Coser brothers and Heaton kept up the pressure, but the Stourbridge defence held out and somehow managed to escape a penalty try being awarded.
The last move of the half resulted in a penalty to Gate, but the kick was just off target, keeping the score at 7-0.
Visibily fired up, Stourbridge came out of the blocks quickly from the re-start and started to grow into the game.
Fly-half Luke White opened their account with a penalty, and the game developed into a real contest.
The home side then counter-attacked from deep and some excellent back play saw full-back Rod Petty perfectly-placed in support to touch down.
A Harrogate defensive drive was then penalised for holding, and White’s kick put Stourbridge 11-7 ahead.
With the game a far more even contest and Harrogate’s backs seeming equal to the task against their talented opposition, White’s line kicking tested the away defence, but Morgan set up counter-attacks from deep and Alex Nesbitt impressed in attack and defence.
Rossillo and Harry Barnard ran at every opportunity and replacement fly-half Luke Riddell showed some nice attacking touches.
Harrogate then knocked-on in attack and White gathered the loose ball to put in a towering clearing kick which turned defence into attack.
Winger Joe Bridger supported the move to register a converted try which took the score to 18-7.
Harrogate immediately responded, with sustained attacks forcing the home defence to concede penalties and a second yellow card.
Despite narrowly-missed penalty attempts, the visitors continued to attack and quickly-spread ball led to Rosillo outpacing the home defence for the game’s final score in the corner.