Harrogate relishing prospect of facing National Two North leaders Macclesfield - Aspinall

Mike Aspinall says Harrogate have nothing to fear heading into Saturday's trip to title hunting Macclesfield.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 4:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 5:26 pm
Noel Minikin strides forward against South Leicester (Photo: Richard Bown)

Harrogate gave the league leaders one of their biggest scares of the season in a narrow defeat at Rudding Lane earlier this campaign.

And with his side on the back of four straight wins in National Two North, Aspinall believes the Cockerels fixture might just send fear through the Macclesfield ranks.

He said: "I would be very surprised if they are not preparing for this week with more of an edge than others. I think they walked away from Rudding Lane knowing they got out of jail. It was a very tight game and one that got away for us a little bit.

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Sam Bottomley touches down against South Leicester (Photo: Richard Bown)

"They are a quality side, with a really good set piece and a huge pack of forwards. We know what we are going to face and knowing this group of playing they will relish the opportunity to take a scalp.

"Nobody expects us to go there and win. The boys will go out and not feel any pressure at all.”

Gate’s resurgence up the table was supplemented by Saturday’s pulsating 42-22 victory over South Leicester at Rudding Lane.

After slipping to a 10-point deficit in the opening 22 minutes, Harrogate struck back with a three-try a purple patch before the half-time break.

Sam Bottomley touches down against South Leicester (Photo: Richard Bown)

Three more converted second half tries gave them a seemingly comfortable win but Leicester competed strongly throughout and scored two more tries late on.

Powerful Willem Enslin drives had tested Leicester’s defence from the start and it was no surprise when he drove over to open Harrogate’s account.

A Callum Irvine break was then well supported by Alex Nesbitt and Noel Minikin and, when the move was checked, Harrogate’s pack drove strongly and scrum half, Danny Matthews crashed over in the corner.

Lewis Minikin, who kicked faultlessly all match, converted from the touchline. Further sparkling back play got good forward support and tight head prop, Connor Ward burst through the defence to end the half with a 20 metres try.

Charley Purkiss-McEndoo continued the scoring with another spectacular, long range prop’s try after the restart before a series of forward drives resulted in a converted Leicester try.

They then came within six points of Harrogate when scrum half, Chris Gibbs darted over. But Harrogate stung back into action when Sam Bottomley pounced on quickly released ball to dart over in the corner and another Minikin touchline conversion followed.

Jake Brady then culminated Harrogate’s scoring with the game’s final try courtesy of a thunderous drive.

Aspinall added: "It’s been a good run, a good month. To win four games in a row is a nice place to be.

"We have talked a lot about players finding consistency in performance and we are being consistently good enough. I don’t think we have been outstanding but we in quite a comfortable place.

"After a long ten-week period of rain, the pitches have started to dry up a bit and it was nice that the boys felt they could throw the ball around."

With Saturday’s convincing win over struggling Leicester. Harrogate moved alongside fierce rivals Otley in the National Two North table. And an intriguing battle between the Yorkshire neighbours is now lined up over the coming months of the season.

The two sides must play each other in the Yorkshire Cup quarter-finals later this month, with the date yet to be finalised, before a third meeting of the season on what would have been the final day of the season.

However, due to Sedgley Park’s fixture backlog, ‘Gate will now finish their campaign on May 5 in the rescheduled tie against the promotion chasing Manchester unit.

Luke Edwards returned to the bench against Leicester and is likely to start against Macclesfield. Sam Brady will also return after suffering from concussion.