Rugby Union: Harrogate 28 Sedgley Park 37

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Director of Rugby Mike Aspinall rued defensive errors and poor decision-making as his side were beaten 28-37 by Sedgley Park in National Two North on Saturday.

Playing catch-up for most of the game, Harrogate had been three points from victory with five minutes remaining, but Park powered back with a converted touchdown to ensure Harrogate finished without so much as a bonus point.

It was cold comfort considering Gate’s performance against a physical Park, but too many defensive mistakes proved too much to overcome in a patchy second half.

“The overriding feeling from the group is that we’re not happy with pushing a top four side this close, and not getting something from it,” he said.

“There is a lot more to come from ourselves.

“It wasn’t an awful performance as Sedgley are a good side, but it’s frustrating we didn’t do better when we’d put ourselves in such a good position to win the game.

“In the first half, the defence was poor, we made mistakes, and there is a lot of accountability to come from that.

“The second half was messy but we got back into it. We had a good chance to claim a five point win but they broke away, raced back upfield and scored and that meant we’ve finished with nothing.

“There were a few positives, Steve Parsons coming back, Kyle Dench coming on.

“It’s just a shame ultimately we’ve finished with no points.”

Harrogate welcomed Park to Claro Road hunting a route back to winning ways after last week’s heartbreak at Sheffield Tigers.

Before kick-off, Aspinall’s injury-hit troops were boosted by the return of Steve Parsons after a long spell out with a broken thumb, while centre Kyle Dench took up a place on the bench after illness.

The first 20 minutes were very even, more like a game of penalty kicker’s chess between Gate fly half Joe Rowntree and Park’s Steve Collins.

After Park were penalised for a deliberate knockdown by number eight Matt Lamprey, Harrogate won their first lineout through Chris Wilson, and then worked the ball upfield well.

But a penalty for Harrogate’s straying offside in the tackle handed Park an early kick at goal, which fly half Steve Collins booted with ease.

A high tackle by lock Juan Crous then gave Rowntree a chance to level the scores which he duly did.

After Harrogate’s lineout continued to function well through hooker Aarin Yorke and Wilson, another mistake at the breakdown by the visitors saw Rowntree tag his second penalty of the afternoon, but Collins kicked another successfully to keep the tie level.

It was definitely a case of who would blink first, and sadly for the enthusiastic Claro Road crowd, it was Gate.

A series of missed Harrogate tackles - four in total - allowed the visitors back in.

After Wilson won another lineout and the Gate forwards started to make good ground, Park turned the ball over, and with nobody able to bring him down, battering ram hooker Jonny Matthews strolled over unchallenged for the first try of the afternoon.

Collins missed the kick but for the next 10 minutes, Park were in the ascendancy although Harrogate reduced the gap to two points with another Rowntree penalty.

Then, five minutes before half-time, more missed tackles allowed Park to run in another try.

Thanks to clean handling between Crous and second row partner Louis McGowan, and then Matthews, number eight Lamprey barged under the posts, Collins’ conversion a formality.

Just as it started to look as though Gate were losing serious ground, a great break just inside the Park 22 by Rowntree took them upfield deep into injury time.

He was tackled but the forwards continued to push, and when flanker Rob Adair craftily stepped out of a tackle, he sprinted for the line before a well-executed swan dive across it.

Rowntree tagged the conversion, and Harrogate were only 16-18 down at the break.

Danny Matthews replaced Phil Wickham at scrum half for the second stanza, and Harrogate worked hard to keep the momentum of the first half going.

A decent break by centre Sam Bottomley was followed by a chip and chase from full back Denton out wide on the left, and the line beckoned before the move broke down.

But Harrogate’s defensive woes returned, and they allowed Sedgley to score the try of the game.

From a lineout, Sedgley’s backs shipped the ball out, and with Harrogate’s defence static, winger Jamie Harrison stepped clear and raced 40 metres to blaze across the whitewash.

Collins converted and Park were now 16-25 ahead.

But just when they needed it, Harrogate found their mettle. Adair’sdeft pass to Parsons reached Bottomley he pushed push his way across the whitewash under a mound of bodies.

Rowntree’s conversion put Harrogate just two points behind at 23-25.

The try seemed to reignite Harrogate’s enthusiasm to run the ball, and Adair looked like he was on for his second only to be stopped short of the line.

But within seconds of the breakdown, the ball had popped out, and Park were on the counterattack.

This wasn’t good news.

A powerful run back up the left wing by Park scrum half Callum McShane allowed him a pass inside, making it easy for winger Andrew Riley to canter over the line.

Collins missed the conversion but the gap was now seven points.

Park lost centre Matt Riley to the bin for a deliberate knock down, before another infringement for foul play in the loose saw prop George Hymas swiftly follow him.

With two men off the field, Harrogate needed to capitalise, and hold on to the ball.

But following numerous attempts to find a way through Park’s defence, Harrogate were awarded a penalty after camping on the visitors’ line.

A great move from an attacking lineout won by James Spencer saw Yorke run round and zip over for a try out on the left.

The conversion was missed but Gate were three points from victory with five minutes to go.

Sedgley won a late lineout deep into Harrogate territory and Marshall edged round the defence.

As the move broke down, Lamprey carried it on, and despite a valiant attempt to keep him out, Justin Bishop scrambled over.

Collins’ conversion made it 28-37, and although Harrogate had continually kept themselves in the game, this was too much to overcome.

Teams

Harrogate: Oli Denton, Callum Irvine, Steve Parsons, Sam Bottomley, Jordan Davies (Kyle Dench 58), Joe Rowntree, Phil Wickham; Dan Metcalfe (Danny Matthew HT), Aarin Yorke, Jimmy Browne, Jake Brady, Tom Harvey, Rob Adair, Nathan Smith, Chris Wilson (James Spencer 57); Reps - Rob Johnson, Ben Reaveley.

Sedgley Park: Richard Wainwright, Andrew Riley, Matt Riley, Chris Parriott, Jamie Harrison, Steve Collins, Callum McShane; Max Ashcroft, Jonny Matthews, George, Hymas, Juan Crous, Louie McGowan, John Bishop, Billy Emerson, Matt Lamprey; Matt Alcock, Liam West, John Lamprey, Phil Largan, Chris.