THEY travel south with a depleted squad but player-coach Mike Aspinall feels Harrogate have the belief to derail title-chasing Loughborough Students tomorrow (2.15pm ko).
‘Boro’ were flying in the league until picking up a five-point deduction recently for playing too many loan players in one match.
That has left them trailing Westoe and Fylde for the National Two North top spot.
Saturday’s 29-17 defeat at Fylde did little to improve their mood ahead of tomorrow’s clash.
It means The Students will have to win every one of their remaining games and hope their rivals slip up elsewhere.
Aspinall is ready for the backlash. But he’s backed his side to give them a good run for their money in Leicestershire especially after Saturday’s 24-17 win over Kendal.
The fly-half will be missing from action, as he’s in Bristol on duty with England U-20 squad. And with centre Kyle Dench out with a broken hand and wing James Rothwell sidelined due to a hamstring injury, ‘Gate are down to the bare bones.
“It’s far from ideal to go down there with a depleted team,” said Aspinall.
“It’s hard enough going there with a full squad. I’m away but Andy Rock will be taking over the coaching duties. We’re lucky in that respect that we’ve got plenty of quality coaches at the club.
“Kyle is a big loss because he’s been outstanding this season. But I still think we can go there and cause problems. It’s a good situation for us, as rugby players you want to play in these sort of games.
“Everyone knows it’s going to be a challenge but you want that. We’ve got a good squad this season, the second team are top of their league and there are some good young players coming through there and looking to make that step up.”
On Saturday with a 19-3 half time lead over Kendal, Harrogate seemed to be cruising to victory and, when they scored their fourth try immediately after the restart, it seemed to be all over. However, Kendal fought back strongly and actually won the second half 14-5.
This wasn’t enough to win the game for them but the well earned bonus point will help them to avoid relegation.
After a scrappy start, Harrogate centre, Dench, stole Kendal ball in the tackle and sprinted some 60 metres for a fine individual try. Kendal stand-off, Mark Ireland, then kicked a penalty goal following a Harrogate “hands-in” offence.
Harrogate winger Rothwell, had passed a late fitness test on his hamstring and got the next try after intercepting from 40 metres. Unfortunately, the offending hamstring gave way again and he had to hobble the last 10 metres. Stand-off Ruaridh Carmichael, making his debut start for Harrogate, kicked the conversion.
The next notable incident was an unfortunate hand injury to Dench which led to him being replaced in the backs by Harrogate’s substitute hooker, Aarin Yorke. In spite of the changes, the rest of the half featured concerted Harrogate attacks with well worked back moves being supported by the forwards. The final try of the half was scored by centre, Jamie Broadley, who powered through attempted tackles on the left wing.
Broadley was also the creator of Harrogate’s second half try. He made a strong break and chipped for the line for Yorke to outpace the defence and score.
With 39 minutes to go. Kendal’s full back, Simon Mulholland made the extra man to score a converted try after sustained pressure.
Kendal’s attack pattern continued but Harrogate weathered a 20 minute storm and came back into the game with promising moves. A bad knock-on in the Kendal 22 denied Harrogate a try and the ball was hacked upfield to the home goal line.
Replacement Kendal back Ken Houghton, snapped up the loose ball to score and Ireland’s conversion gave Kendal a bonus point.