Places ‘up for grabs’ ahead of Sale test

Harrogate RUFC were beaten at home by Scunthorpe last time out. Picture: Richard Bown
Harrogate RUFC were beaten at home by Scunthorpe last time out. Picture: Richard Bown

Dave Doherty said places were “up for grabs” in Harrogate RUFC’s squad for the trip to high-flying Sale this weekend.

Following a run of only one win in eight matches under his control, the club’s director of rugby believes a shake-up among the squad will be healthy against a team without a defeat at home this season.

Harry Parrish and Jonny Giles are set to return from injury with Doherty keen to make changes to his back line.

“There will be positions up for grabs this weekend and I really want that,” said Doherty.

“Competition for places is always healthy and we want to keep people on their toes so they’re hungry for the position.

“A few of the forwards have stepped up and put their hands up for a shirt. We have to make sure the backs are just as hungry.

“It may be a fact that they are trying too hard on some occasions.”

Sale have won six of their eight matches this season and lie second behind leaders Caldy in National Two North.

However they head into the game against Harrogate on the back of a 23-5 defeat to Leicester Lions.

“They have a really dangerous back row and play to their strengths on a wide pitch,” Doherty added.

“That’s going to be the challenge for us but we just have to be in control of what we can be.”

Last time out, Gate were beaten at home by fellow strugglers Scunthorpe, despite another dominant performance from their pack.

The Cockerels outscored the visitors two tries to none at Rudding Lane but only came away with a losing bonus point, trailing 18-14 at full-time.

An early Harrogate offside offence led to Scunthorpe’s first penalty score and, minutes later, Steve Johnson punished them further for a holding offence on the half way line.

A series of attacking Harrogate scrums followed from which the visitors were repeatedly penalised.

The hosts opted for scrums from these penalties and Scunthorpe’s Will Robinson was eventually sin binned.

The pressure continued and the referee’s patience finally ran out to give Harrogate a penalty try, converted by Charlie Morgan.

That put the home side 7-6 ahead, but the slender lead was soon overturned when a driving maul was penalised inside their half and Johnson kicked Scunthorpe ahead again.

As half-time loomed, Harrogate again went offside in attack and another towering Johnson kick made it 7-12 at the interval.

The same pattern continued after the re-start and Scunthorpe were penalised for an early tackle from a quickly-taken penalty.

Guy Mychaljuk was duly dispatched to the bin but the visitors then won a crucial turnover followed by a long clearance kick and Harrogate went offside in the loose.

Inevitably, Johnson’s kick made the score 15-7.

More Harrogate driving mauls followed and Tim Heaton crashed over to score, Morgan again converting to put the hosts within one point of the away side.

But a home scrum was soon penalised and Johnson’s kick extended the Scunthorpe lead to four points.

Harrogate continued to attack but, although Scunthorpe’s Gareth Mist became their third player to be sin-binned ,their doughty defence held out to give them a well-deserved win.