'All we can do is keep winning' says Harrogate RUFC chief as promotion battle intensifies
Harrogate RUFC thrashed Vale of Lune by a 69-14 scoreline at the Stratstone Stadium, recording a fifth consecutive victory in the process.
The win ensures that Dave Doherty's men keep pace with their play-off rivals, though they haven't gained any ground in the race for promotion as both Blaydon and Billingham also claimed bonus-point triumphs on Saturday.
The weekend's results mean that it is a case of as you were at the top end of the North Premier, 'Gate remaining fourth, one point behind Blaydon and four shy of second-placed Billingham.
Runaway leaders Hull are well out of sight, but with his side potentially just one victory away from taking over the division's solitary play-off berth, Doherty says that all his players can do is keep churning out results.
"If we keep getting five points each week then we are doing our job," the Aces' director of rugby said.
"All we can do is keep winning our games and keep the pressure on the teams above us.
"We've benefited from having a really settled side in recent weeks and that is why we've been able to pick up so many bonus points.
"Saturday's performance was very good. The writing was on the wall for Vale of Lune when we scored so early in the game and we were really clinical during the first half.
"I was delighted with our execution. Even when the game was already won the boys kept their focus, and that isn't always easy."
An early Oli Rosillo break from deep was taken on by Andrew Lawson, and his 50-metre run saw him cut through Vale’s defence for the opening score, converted by Nathan Wyman.
From the re-start, an excellent Sam Fox take led the ball being spun along the line for Lawson’s second converted try.
Second rows Sam Brady and Andy Boyde then combined to carve a hole in the visiting defence and Harry Barnard took a pass at pace to sprint clear for his team's third touchdown.
The early 'Gate blitz continued and Jonny Coser charged clear from a driving maul before finding skipper Danny Matthews, who finished off.
That score wrapped up the bonus point and put the hosts 26-0 ahead in just the 10th minute.
Another Boyde break led to the next try, with flanker Martin Dodds in support to outpace the away defence from 30 metres out.
Vale pulled one back following an attacking line-out as the ball was spread for centre Ben Dorrington to burst through, Alex Briggs adding the extras and trimming the gap to 33-7.
Normal service was soon resumed, however, and with the visitors down to 14 men, Mathews’ pass from a scrum put Barnard away for his second of the afternoon.
More Harrogate attacks followed and a quickly-taken penalty led to Barnard’s hat-trick touchdown, ending the first-half scoring at 43-7.
The opening 20 minutes of the second period saw a much-improved Vale put 'Gate under a bit of pressure, though the hosts managed to extend their advantage when Lawson broke a tackle and an interchange of passes between him and Luke Riddell resulted in another try.
A Hugo Tasker burst from a line-out then led to a converted score for the supporting Charley-Purkiss-McEndoo, before Rosillo squeezed in at the corner and the subsequent touchline conversion made it 62-7.
Wyman then gathered a Lawson chip at pace to score and kick yet another touchline conversion before Sam Wallbank ensured that Vale had the last say with a late consolation touchdown, converted by Briggs.
Next up for the Aces is a trip to seventh-placed Alnwick on Saturday.
"It's a game that we need to be up for as they beat us at home and that is a result that I'd certainly like to put right," Doherty added.
"It's a long journey, but if we're in the right place mentally then I think that we have enough to go there and come away with a win."