Harrogate storm to Yorkshire Cup triumph in perfect send-off for coach Mike Aspinall
Harrogate gave coach Mike Aspinall a winning send-off by retaining the Yorkshire Cup on Thursday night.
In his final act as director of rugby, Aspinall oversaw Harrogate's 11th county cup triumph as his side thrashed National Three North champions Sheffield Tigers 38-3 at Pontefract Rugby Club.
Lewis Minikin, also featuring for the last time in Harrogate colours, scored 23 points as the Cockerels produced a complete performance to win the trophy for a second consecutive year.
Harrogate, seventh-place finishers in the tier above Tigers in 2015/16, were entirely dominant in the first half and cruised into a 20-point lead at the break.
Brothers Sam and Jake Brady both capitalised on influential play from fly-half Callum Irvine to cross the whitewash, whilst Minikin added two conversions and three penalties.
The power difference between both sides' packs was evident from the first scrum as Harrogate sent Sheffield back-pedalling and Minikin kicked the ensuing penalty.
However, the lead was cancelled out immediately from the following kick-off as 'Gate gave a penalty of their own away for going over the top.
That was as good as it got for the National Three side as Harrogate's stern defence and peerless attack took control.
Irvine's kicking from hand caused all sorts of problems to the Tigers wingers and it was from a right-footed kick to the left that Sam Brady pounced on a mistake to score in the corner. Minikin's excellent touchline conversion pressed home a seven-point advantage.
That lead was soon doubled as Irvine, who is joining Minikin at Hull next season, darted through a gap and fed captain Jake Brady to score to the right of the posts, again converted by Minikin.
Tigers were unable to break into 'Gate's 22 throughout the first half and two further penalties at the end of the half left them with a mountain to climb in the second period.
But any hope of a second half comeback was blunted by an early Minikin penalty before Willem Enslin touched down at the base of a powerful Harrogate drive.
Minikin then capped off an impeccable display by the holders with a classy converted try in the final minute as Harrogate secured the cup for an 11th time.