Harrogate RUFC chief Dave Doherty praises players following victory at Kirkby Lonsdale
Harrogate RUFC chief Dave Doherty piled praise on his players after they emerged from a tricky away day at Kirkby Lonsdale with a five-point haul to their names.
A 42-24 victory ensured the Aces kept the pressure on Billingham and Blaydon in the battle for the North Premier's one promotion play-off spot.
"It was a cracking win to be fair. I'm really happy with the boys, they were superb" reflected 'Gate's director of rugby.
"Kirkby Lonsdale is a tough place to go when they've got their full-strength side out, so I'd have been pleased to take four points. To finish with five is fantastic.
"We knew it would be awkward. They're confrontational at the breakdown and they've got a couple of very good overseas players, but when we came under pressure we really performed.
"I think that the fact that certain pivotal moments went our way was key to us winning the game.
"We were camped on their line for a spell in the first half and Aarin Yorke eventually managed to go over for an important try, then, early in the second we went through the phases and scored out wide to put ourselves in control.
"Those moments were crucial to the end result."
Harrogate began Saturday's contest on the front foot and an early Jonny Coser run led to quick ball being released to Nathan Wyman who broke incisively and chipped ahead for Luke Riddell to open the scoring, Wyman converting for 7-0.
Touchdowns from lock James Thompson and winger Harry Ralston then saw Kirkby fight back to seize a 12-7 advantage, though their time in the ascendancy was short-lived.
With the front row of Tom Driscoll, Aarin Yorke and Connor Ward absolutely dominant, 'Gate scrum pressure had to tell as they forced the home pack into conceding a stream of penalties.
Repeated driving mauls followed, and Yorke squeezed through a mass of bodies for a converted try that saw the visitors go 14-12 up.
A spectacular Andrew Lawson try seemed to be on the cards shortly before half-time, but he was just forced into touch.
A quick turnover led to the next Harrogate score, the ball eventually spread wide for Riddell to sprint through for his second of the afternoon.
Still more attacks followed from the away team with forwards and backs linking well.
A well-controlled 20-metre driving maul took play to Kirkby's goal-line and scrum-half Matthews picked up and dummied his way through for the bonus-point try, stretching the lead to 28-12.
Ralston then suffered a nasty injury and play was halted for a lengthy period while he received treatment, though 'Gate picked up where they had left off when play re-started.
Matthews and Harry Barnard initially combined well, and although the ball then went loose in midfield, Wyman gathered it off his bootlaces to completely outstrip the defence and register another converted try.
More powerful Harrogate scrummaging then saw Kirkby driven off their own ball and replacement forward Steve Maycock bagged his team's final touchdown of the day.
A successful conversion made it six out of six for Wyman, who went on to scoop the man of the match award.
There were scores from home players Dave Barton and Mike Fearon in the closing stages, however the game was already over as a contest by this point.
The men from Rudding Lane remain fourth in the league standings despite their result, but they sit just a point behind Blaydon (3rd) and four shy of Billingham (2nd).
"The big thing for us is to make sure that we keep our level of performance where it has been for the last few games," Doherty added.
"If we do that then we'll continue to pick up results and, while we anticipated both Billingham and Blaydon winning their respective fixtures this weekend, they both have some tough games to come.
"We can only control what we do, so the aim is to keep trying to take maximum points from as many matches as possible and see if we can turn over [runaway league leaders] Hull when we play them at home."
Next up for Doherty's men is a home clash with relegation-threatened Vale of Lune, 3pm kick-off on Saturday March 2.