Harrogate RUFC recover to sink bottom-of-the table Vale of Lune
Harrogate RUFC's topsy turvy season continued as they bounced back from last weekend's surprise home loss to Kirkby Lonsdale with victory at Vale of Lune.
Dave Doherty's men did not have things all their own way, however, recovering from a position of peril to see off the North Premier Division's bottom side.
With a gale force wind behind them, hosts Vale had established a 35-17 lead by half-time.
This was in spite of Harrogate’s forward dominance, as some loose backs play gifted a number points to the home team.
For the second successive week, the match was marred by the unwelcome spectacle of uncontested scrums, however this did not prevent a 'Gate fightback in the second period.
The visiting pack won good ball from the kick-off and the Aces' backs mounted a series of promising attacks.
Possession was however surrendered in midfield, and Vale full-back Chris Ramwell seized upon the loose ball to sprint away for a fine try converted by Damon Hall.
Worse was to come. An attempted miss-pass was snaffled by the outstanding Hall, whose pace took him clear for a 40-metre converted try.
Undeterred, Harrogate responded positively. Scrum-half Danny Matthews made a half-break and slipped a pass to winger Harry Barnard, who advanced down the right flank.
The away pack was in support when his progress was checked, securing good ball for Matthews to dart over and touch down, Nathan Wyman then converting to cut the gap to 14-7.
Vale hit straight back, securing the ball from an attacking line-out following a 'Gate offside offence.
An excellent Hall break was backed up by second row James Robinson, who powered over for another converted score.
Harrogate won possession from the re-start and enjoyed a prolonged spell of forward pressure on the home line. A driving maul took them over the whitewash but they lost the ball and Vale were able to clear.
Doherty's men did however manage to regain possession from a Vale line-out and Steve Maycock powered over.
Despite all the excellent work that had gone before by the impressive 'Gate forwards, the hosts went on to grab the game's next try, prop Mike Bradshaw driving strongly through a ruck.
A powerful James Millington burst triggered an instant response though, Barnard running strongly to carry on the move before the play was spread left and Andy Boyde crashed over the line.
This made it 28-17, though the final word of the opening period was to go to Vale, a converted try arriving from what appeared to be a forward pass, putting the Lancaster outfit 35-17 up and in a commanding position at the break.
With the wind behind them in the second half, Harrogate expected to further utilise their scrum dominance and control the rest of the game.
However, the wind dropped and, more significantly, Vale prop casualties led to unedifying uncontested scrums for most of the half.
The Aces attacked repeatedly following the resumption, but it took them 18 minutes to make a breakthrough.
The hosts repeatedly offended as the men from Rudding Lane applied some serious pressure through their forwards, and a penalty-try was awarded.
Still 'Gate came, and Vale’s attempted clearance kicks were more often that not gathered by full-back Oli Rosillo whose elusive running set up further raids.
When quickly-recycled ball reached Andrew Lawson, he outstripped the home defence for a converted try.
A Vale penalty goal, their only score of the half, followed to make it 38-31, but the visiting players had their tails up.
Although not allowed to scrummage any more, Harrogate dominated in all areas for the rest of the match.
Vale defended desperately against repeated driving mauls, but eventually a yellow card was brandished by the referee.
Another driving maul followed, this time Millington was able to apply a finishing touch and the subsequent conversion levelled matters.
An attempted Vale counter-attack was then snuffed out following a great turnover from returning prop Maycock, the ball then being spread to Lawson, who raced clear to register the try that won them the game.
The extras were added, meaning that the final score ended up 45-38, sealing a bonus-point win that moves Doherty's side up one place to third in the table.
Next up is a home clash with eighth-placed Alnwick, 2.15pm kick-off at the Stratstone Stadium on Saturday, November 17.