‘Special’ Harrogate Rugby make history in muddy derby win

Harrogate RUFC beat Otley 20-10 on Saturday (Richard Bown)

Harrogate RUFC beat Otley 20-10 on Saturday (Richard Bown)

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Mike Aspinall hailed a “special” crop of players after his Harrogate side snatched a landmark victory over fierce rivals Otley.

The director of rugby masterminded a 20-10 victory over the old enemy as ‘Gate stretched their winning run to seven matches in National Two North.

However, the high-flying Cockerels were forced to battle back from a 10-point deficit to clinch victory on Otley’s home patch.

Not only did the travelling support have victory to celebrate, but in winning the derby, the Claro Roaders became the first of the neighbouring sides to win three straight clashes between the sides in history.

“That was a nice little carrot for the group,” said director of rugby Aspinall.

“This group is special in my opinion. It’s trying to build a bit of a legacy throughout the club, and they are making a real good fist of it.

“The guys showed real maturity in their performance, and ability to change the course of the game.

“You could see what it meant to all the supporters. I don’t think there are many games away from home where 50 to 60 people are waiting to clap you back to the changing rooms.

“I am sure the supporters enjoyed their evening gloating in the Otley clubhouse.”

Gate remain six points clear in third spot and they now have their sights on equalling the club’s record of ten straight wins, which was achieved in 2008.

A win at home to Broadstreet on Saturday would take Harrogate within two matches of that record, with bottom side Stockport and promotion chasing Ampthill and District up next.

Following Saturday’s win, ‘Gate said goodbye to young Yorkshire Carnegie prop Lewis Boyce, who will team up with the England U20 squad later this month.

Aspinall presented the 18-year-old with a signed Harrogate shirt following Saturday’s win, and said it represented the effort he had put into playing for the club during his short spell at Claro Road.

He added: “We usually do that for people that have given us years of service. For someone to receive it after playing eight games, it shows just where the kid is at.

“He bought into our environment and that’s all about getting better. If he keeps getting better, he will be playing for England in the future.”

Nino Cutino will come into the squad to replace Boyce on Saturday but Andy Boyde is likely to start at prop.

Elsewhere, Phil Wickham will replace the rested Danny Matthews at scrum half and Noel Minikin will come in at flanker for Kerry Wood.

On the Broadstreet encounter, Aspinall added: “We have to be mindful, they have won five of their last seven games. They are a team that are on the up.”