In a fluctuating match, Harrogate held out against injury time Tigers pressure to record a narrow win.
Harrogate’s young backs played nerveless attacking rugby, with 17 year old Callum Irvine outstanding at stand-off. This proved to be just enough to keep the more experienced Sheffield pack at bay.
Sheffield opened the scoring when Harrogate were penalised for pulling down a drive.
The penalty led to an attacking line-out, the ball was spun wide and full back Peter Swatkins dived over to score. Ruaridh Carmichael, playing his last game for Harrogate, used his experience to complement the youthful exuberance of his backs colleagues and put in a big relieving kick.
Tigers offended from the subsequent line-out and Joe Rowntree kicked a penalty goal. Almost immediately, Sheffield entered a maul from the side and another Rowntree penalty edged Harrogate ahead.
An even period of play followed till Tigers were penalised for illegal holding and Rowntree’s penalty further extended the home lead. Sustained Sheffield drives tested Harrogate’s defence for the rest of the half but they proved equal to the task.
During this period, they managed to contain a strong break from former Harrogate winger, Jamie Broadley.
From the restart, Irvine split the visiting defence with a scintillating break and Sheffield were forced to concede a penalty. Rowntree’s kick made it 12-5 but the balance of the match changed when home flanker, Chris Wilson, was yellow carded for pulling a maul down.
Tigers scored two tries during his enforced 10 minute absence, both resulting from forward pressure. Gregor Hayter crashed over for the first one and the evergreen Jon Feeley tucked in behind a forward drive to put the visitors 12-15 ahead.
The importance of keeping 15 men on the field was further emphasised when Feeley subsequently went to the bin. Harrogate exploited the numerical advantage when the ball was passed quickly from an attacking scrum and Ed Smithies made the extra man to score.
Irvine converted this try to make it 19-15 with, apparently, 15 minutes to go.
In the event, because of injure time, there were 25 minutes to go and Harrogate had to defend desperately during this period. A brilliant Irvine tap tackle thwarted a seemingly certain Tigers try. A further visiting attack saw them cross the goal line but they knocked on in the process of touching down.
Harrogate: Smithies, Minikin, Edwards, Carmichael, Roberts, Irvine, Rowntree (Wickham 56). Bergmanas (Innes 67), Maycock (Yorke 67), J Brady, S Brady (Spencer 67), Wilson, Heaton, Maud
Sheffield Tigers: SWatkins, Feeley, Outram, Buchanan (Morley 34), Broadley, West, Clarke, Chivers (Rose 40), Thomson (Sidlow 77), Cone, Joel, Hayter, Cook, Mackenzie, Barnes.
Referee: Will Halford (RFU)