Harrogate RUFC Ladies kicked off the new season in fine style, beating Derby Vipers 31-17 at Rudding Lane.
Lucy Barnett’s team have been promoted to Women’s National Challenge North East One for 2017/18 and knew that they would be up against it in their opening fixture as they entertained a side who remained unbeaten last season.
Harrogate conceded a knock-on from the kick-off and were immediately forced to contend with what proved to be a powerful Vipers scrum.
The visitors had their hosts under pressure in the set-piece from the outset, however, after managing to thwart their opponents’ efforts to drive them backwards, the home defence managed to keep the Derby advance at bay.
Once Harrogate had gained possession they pushed forward into the Derby half.
Their first attack of the game was repelled, but, following a successful steal at a line-out the hosts got back on the front foot.
The Harrogate forwards made ground but were again pushed backwards by the Vipers’ defence close to the line.
The ball was then shipped out wide with centre Evie Jackson dodging the away defence before setting up Sarah Jayne Pritchard on the right wing to register the first score of the game after 20 minutes.
It wasn’t long before Derby got back on terms, touching down just five minutes later for 5-5.
Undeterred, Harrogate came again and before long a second try materialised when Jackson crossed the whitewash to make it 10-5 just before half-time.
Upon the re-start, Barnett’s side instantly forced their opponents to knock-on. This resulted in a scrum which provided the platform for the home backs to accelerate towards the try-line before hooker Maisie Barnett applied the finishing touch.
Full-back Ailish Clear then added the conversion to give her team a 17-5 lead.
An interception try saw the Vipers close the gap at 17-12, but Harrogate reacted quickly from the re-start and Emily Rushton was able to touch down in her league debut, a mere two minutes later.
Again, Clear booted over the extra two points to take the score to 24-12.
The last quarter of the match saw Derby push Harrogate all the way in what was a tough battle across the pitch.
The result was however put beyond any doubt late on when scrum-half Leah Birkin saw a gap in the Vipers’ defensive line and took her chance, sprinting clear of the cover and touching down before Clear kicked her third conversion of the afternoon.
Derby did add another try in the closing stages, but it was too little too late to deny Harrogate victory.