Harrogate Pythons pull clear of promotion rivals after home success over Sheffield Medicals
Harrogate Pythons' 11th win in 12 league outings saw them pull away from the sides immediately below them in the Yorkshire Three standings.
A 24-12 home victory over Sheffield Medicals leaves Dan Bird's men well-placed in the promotion race, just five points behind leaders Wensleydale with a game in hand, eight clear of third-placed Thornensians and nine ahead of Castleford (4th).
In glorious conditions and in front of a large, veracious crowd, the hosts made a positive start to Saturday's clash at Station View.
With just six minutes on the clock, Hugh Tatlow stole Medics ball at a line-out and when the move broke down in midfield Ross Fallenstein was on hand to pick up the loose ball and jink his way past several despairing defenders to score under the posts.
Tom Breakwell added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
'Gate's momentum was checked in the period that followed due to a series of knocks-ons and forward passes.
From a home scrum the ball squirmed out and was picked up by the Sheffield scrum-half who then spread the play wide for his winger to race over in the corner, trimming the gap at 7-5 after a quarter of an hour.
Both sides then enjoyed spells in the ascendancy as they set about adding their tallies, Medics coming the closest to doing so when they made it over the try-line but were adjudged to have been held up.
There were no more points scored before the interval, however it took the visitors just three second-half minutes to register their second touchdown.
Having kept possession well following a line-out, they shifted play from one side of the field to the other allowing their flanker to crash over for a try which was converted for 12-7.
The Pythons responded well to falling behind, Joe Bentham linking with the returning Matt Leach then looping around for a return pass before stepping inside the cover to race away and level matters.
'Gate then began to turn the screw and Bentham was stopped narrowly short of the line, but a third try wasn't long in arriving.
Constant Pythons pressure resulted in an attacking line-out which was won by Tatlow.
Max Sharp was initially stopped in midfield, though the quick ball was switched to the blindside by Ned Rutty and Bird raced away to score in the corner, making the score 17-12 in the 66th minute.
The hosts weren't finished there, and when Rutty produced an accurate cross-kick, Sharp managed to collect it before being tackled just short.
Tatlow was however first to the breakdown and picked up and stretched his long frame out to secure his team a bonus point.
Jed Wolfram then landed a fine conversion from close to the touchline to round things off at 24-12.
This Saturday, Pythons visit leaders Wensleydale for a top-of-the-table clash that will likely go a long way to deciding who wins the title.