Ladies go clear at the top with first win over rivals York
Harrogate RUFC Ladies went four points clear at the top of National Challenge North East One after they recorded a first ever victory over local rivals York RI.
Lucy Barnett’s side made it four wins out of four for the season as they emerged victorious by a 24-8 scoreline in a fierce derby encounter, ending their opponents’ unbeaten start to 2017/18 in the process.
From the Harrogate kick-off, York carried the ball back into the visitors’ half and instantly made ground, but they were penalised and the away side were able to launch an attack of their own.
The home team defended well but ‘Gate kept coming and managed to advance in slow but steady fashion.
The visiting outfit recycled possession and, with eight minutes on the clock, prop Lizzy Mason found a gap in the York line to touch down under the posts.
The opening try of the day was then converted by full-back Ailish Clear to give her side a 7-0 advantage.
As the first half progressed the elements began took their toll, with players on both sides were having to work hard in the windy and wet conditions.
Though they managed to adapt well, both teams found the going difficult at the line-out and this resulted in possession changing hands regularly and and a series of scrums.
Harrogate more than held their own, however, and York struggled to make it anywhere near their visitors’ try-line due to some defiant defensive work.
Half an hour after the first was scored, a second try arrived for Barnett’s side.
York conceded a penalty within the dangerous territory of their own 22 and fly-half Rose Jay made a break for the line, only to be stopped just short.
Scrum-half Leah Birkin reacted rapidly, however, moving the ball blind for flanker Lizzy Goddard-Taylor to drive forwards and dive over the line, increasing her team’s lead to 12-0 just before the half-time whistle was blown.
The hosts came back strongly after the break and caused difficulties for ‘Gate straight from the re-start.
The Rudding Lane ladies were pushed back towards their own try-line by a determined forward foray until three defenders worked together to push the York ball carrier into touch.
Harrogate then made the decision to go short in the resulting line-out which took the hosts by surprise.
This allowed props Mason and Barnicoat to charge through the York line together and Birkin was able to take advantage of a bunched York defence, shipping the ball quickly out to Jay.
The ‘Gate number 10 ran a ring around the home side and set off up the pitch.
She was eventually stopped in her tracks by by a diving tackle from the York full-back, but Evie Tonkin was in hot pursuit of her teammate and readily received Jay’s offload to dot down under the posts.
Clear again added the extras to put her team 19-0 up and in full control.
Upon the re-start, York forced a knock-on and then began to hammer away at the Harrogate try-line.
They couldn’t quite force a break through though, and after several advances were repelled, the home hooker took her chances with an attempted drop goal.
She successfully landed the kick and put three points on the board for her team, however the ‘Gate lead was still substantial with just 15 minutes to go.
The visitors then stretched that advantage further, reacting instantly to a well-placed kick off.
The away forwards swiftly regained possession and having spotted the gaps in a scrambled York set up, Barnicoat rushed over the whitewash to move the score on to 24-3.
Although the game was well and truly up for them, the hosts seemed determined to have the final say and get over the try-line before the final whistle.
And, after a relentless spell attacking the ‘Gate line, they succeeded in touching down with around five minutes to play, but the score was far too little too late to effect the outcome of the contest.