Harrogate RUFC chief hails ‘courageous’ players after victory at Alnwick
Dave Doherty said he was left “really impressed” by a “courageous” display from his Harrogate RUFC players as Alnwick were seen off on Saturday afternoon.
The Aces came through a difficult first half with the game still locked at 0-0 before pulling clear after the interval following a change in tactics.
“I’m absolutely delighted to go to a place as tough as Alnwick and come away with five points,” the club’s director of rugby reflected.
“There was a strong cross-wind and Alnwick made things very challenging for us. They have some enormous forwards and were extremely combative.
“Some of our boys got melted in the contact area in the first half, there were some big hits, but we showed real courage and kept trying to play.
“After half-time we changed our game-plan and credit goes to the players for being brave enough and for implementing what we wanted them to do.
“We played a bit deeper, altered the point of contact and moved the ball quicker, all of which led to us having a bit of a purple patch and taking the game away from the opposition.”
A series of well-constructed Alnwick back moves tested Harrogate’s defence early on, with some incisive running from talented home full-back Jack Smales catching the eye.
The visitors were however equal to everything that was thrown at them and their forwards gradually began to take control.
No points were registered before the break, though the opening half finished with a late hit on 'Gate fly-half Sam Fox that ended his participation in the contest.
The necessary re-shuffle led to Nathan Wyman taking over at number 10, where he produced an assured display, while Luke Edwards came off the bench to add some bite to midfield attacks.
Almost immediately from the re-start, Martin Dodds charged down an attempted Alnwick clearance.
Luke Riddell seized on the loose ball and his run was well supported and carried on by Andrew Lawson and then Harry Barnard.
A driving maul followed, from which scrum-half Danny Matthews darted over to open the scoring.
Strong 'Gate scrummaging then left Alnwick’s pack in disarray, forcing them to concede a penalty after being driven back 15 metres.
They offended further when Doherty's men opted for another scrum and a penalty-try was subsequently awarded, making the score 12-0.
The next breakthrough came from a Wyman break that was backed up by Edwards and Riddell.
A maul followed the breakdown and Sam Brady powered over to touch down.
Drives from Andy Boyde and Tim Heaton then opened up more gaps in the home line and number eight Jonny Coser was in support to finish off, Wyman then adding the conversion for 24-0.
With time almost up, Harrogate’s defence relaxed for probably the first time and the ball was passed to Smales following a scrum, the Alnwick man spotting a gap and racing away for a fine individual try which he also converted.
The combination of 'Gate's bonus-point win and play-off rivals Billingham's game at Kirkby Lonsdale being postponed means that the Rudding Lane outift climb one position to third in the North Premier standings, where they sit level on points with second-placed Blaydon.
Next up for Doherty's troops is a home clash with champions-elect Hull, 3pm kick-off at the Stratstone Stadium on March 23.