National Two North: Leicester Lions 26-20 Harrogate | Aspinall unhappy at third straight defeat

Harrogate's Barry Frost charges through a tackle against Leicester Lions last season (Photo: Richard Bown)
Harrogate's Barry Frost charges through a tackle against Leicester Lions last season (Photo: Richard Bown)

Mike Aspinall blamed missed scoring opportunities for Harrogate’s surprise third defeat on the bounce at Leicester Lions 26-20 on Saturday.

Harrogate dropped to ninth in National Two North after a disappointing trip to the Midlands left the director of rugby pondering problems in the Cockerels’ attacking play.

Leicester raced ahead in the first half with two tries to their name, leaving Harrogate too much to do in clawing back a bonus point after the break.

The defeat on the road followed similar outcomes at home to Sandal and Stourbridge in recent weeks, while Aspinall has also criticised performance levels in previous victories over Otley and Luctonians.

Aspinall said: “Three losses on the bounce is not really what we are after. But as ever, we will be working hard to try and right those wrongs.

“We haven’t found our stride yet and put in a performance that we can be happy with. There’s a lot of soul searching going on to find out what the problem is.

“I am not entirely sure what the answer is. I said to the guys on Saturday, if that inaccuracy is there on Saturday, it must be there on Tuesday and Thursday in our training. I find it hard to comprehend that we are on the money in training and not in games on Saturdays.”

Leicester were soon into their groove and their impressive number eight, Joe Collingham opened the scoring with a well-worked try from the front of an attacking line-out.

He powered through some nonexistent tackling and Jon Williams’ touchline conversion put the Lions seven points ahead.

Harrogate then put some attacking moves together following well controlled forward drives. The ball was released, moved along the line and smart handling led to Lewis Minikin darting through for a fine try which he converted. This proved to be Harrogate’s only score of the half, though.

The Lions’ excellent scrum half, Adam Shaw, tidied up loose ball to create another home attack, Harrogate went offside and Williams kicked the penalty to restore their lead.

A Shaw break then sparked off another Leicester attack which flanker John Murdoch was in support of to score a converted try in the right corner. A score which was added to by another Williams penalty before the break to leave the score 20-7 to the hosts.

Replacement scrum half, Danny Matthews tightened things up for Harrogate in the second period and a strong Barry Frost midfield break set up a fine try.

The move seemed to be checked in the corner but Callum Irvine was in support to score and Minikin converted from the touchline.

Williams landed another well-taken penalty but almost immediately, it was Leicester went offside and Minikin’s kick brought the score to 23-17.

A further exchange of penalties led to the final score as Harrogate were frustrated by a number of contentious refereeing decisions towards the end.

Aspinall added: “We had more than enough opportunity to get the win but we weren’t accurate enough in their territory.

“First half they took their opportunities really well. That was the difference.

“We are creeping up in the right direction but we are not putting all the improvements together on the same Saturday.

“Our scrum and our lineout were really solid and so were some of the defensive structures. But the fact we spent long period in their territory and didn’t come away with any points shows a lack of accuracy in our execution.”

Leicester Lions: N Taylor, Veebel, Byron, Williams, Benjamin, Hargreaves, Shaw, Spokes. O Taylor, Murray, Roach, Tuckey, Young, Murdoch, Collingham. Subs (all used) Dean, Nairn,Bishop, Constant, Rudkin

Harrogate: Parrish, Rosillo, Minikin, Frost, Edwards, Irvine, Wickham, Purkiss-McEndoo, Yorke, Reaveley, Brady, Boyde, Wilson, Coser, Heaton. Subs (all used) Larder, Ward, Boothman, Smith, Matthews.