Rugby Union: Harrogate 15-7 Chester

3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead,  Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Noel Minikin powers through the tackle to score his first try of the game'Picture by Gerard Binks.

3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead, Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Noel Minikin powers through the tackle to score his first try of the game'Picture by Gerard Binks.

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Harrogate RUFC strengthened their National Three North automatic promotion chances after they beat title rivals Chester 15-7 in a cagey contest.

Number eight Tim Heaton scored two tries as Graham Siswick’s side rejoiced in front of a bumper 400-strong crowd at Claro Road.

The victory puts ‘Gate four points ahead of Chester at the top of the table with three games remaining.

The crunch match had been put in doubt after heavy snowfall on Friday and Saturday morning had covered the playing surface.

But, after a rallying call from the club, more than 60 members of the local community turned out to clear the snow and enable the game to go ahead.

The supporter’s commitment transcended onto the pitch and, after intense pressure from ‘Gate’s forwards, flyhalf Callum Irvine took the lead for his side with a penalty.

Handling errors dominated the scrappy first half with both team’s passing play being broken up.

But Harrogate changed the complexion of the game on the stroke of half-time when Chester went down to 14 men, prop Sandal Jones sin-binned.

Sustained ‘Gate pressure caused issues to the Chester defence and when the ball came to Heaton he powered over to score under the posts.

Flyhalf Irvine added the conversion to put the home side 10-0 up at the break.

On a grubby surface Chester struggled to get the free-flowing back play, which has made them the league’s highest scoring team, into action.

But they found a way back into the game with 10 minutes to go moments after ‘Gate had replacement hooker Steve Maycock sent to the bin.

The away side bundled the ball over for a converted try after a powerful catch and drive 10 metres from the line.

But as the nerves jangled amongst the home supporters, Heaton settled the tie on the game’s final play with his second try from another catch and drive.

Irvine missed the conversion but the home celebrations were already underway.

‘Gate’s next game is away at Percy Park on Saturday, 6 April.

See the paper on Thursday for the full match report.

Elsewhere, Harrogate Town, Knaresborough Town and Harrogate Railway’s matches against FC Halifax Town, Selby Town and Mossley were postponed.

And Ripon City’s v League Cup quarter final derby clash with Boroughbridge also fell victim to the snow.

Tadcaster Albion’s match at Scarborough Athletic survived the weather but Paul Marshall’s men slipped to a 2-0 defeat against the NCEL Premier title chasers.