Harrogate Pythons RUFC head coach Dan Bird says consistency in selection was key to securing promotion

Harrogate Pythons RUFC’s head coach Dan Bird says that consistency in selection has been key to his side clinching promotion to Yorkshire Two.

By Rhys Howell
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 11:15 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 11:17 am
Sam Beagrie scored 22 tries to help Harrogate Pythons to promotion from Yorkshire Three. Picture: John Ashton/Ickledot

The Starbeck-based club finished 2021/22 second in Yorkshire Three, just two points behind eventual champions Barnsley, courtesy of an impressive sequence of 17 consecutive victories.

Usually, finishing in the top-two would be sufficient to guarantee a place in the division above the following season, though a Rugby Football Union restructuring of the leagues meant that the Pythons had to wait a fortnight after playing their last game of the campaign to discover their fate.

But confirmation was finally received on Saturday that ‘Gate would indeed be playing their rugby in a new-look, 12-team Yorkshire Two next term.

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Harrogate Pythons head coach Dan Bird. Picture: Submitted

“I’m over the moon that we’ve been promoted,” Bird told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“It hasn’t happened the way we wanted it to in terms of us not knowing what was happening for a few weeks, that has dampened the spirits a bit, but we were delighted to get the news.

“What we have achieved and the way we finished the season was really down to consistency in player availability.

“The first 10 games of the season were quite challenging because we had to use 38 different players during that period, but the second half of this year we’ve had more players available on a regular basis and therefore had to use far less.

“It makes a huge difference. It just means that the relationships between the players both on and off the pitch are a lot tighter and has enabled them to go out and deliver on a consistent basis.”

From finishing in the lower reaches of Yorkshire Three back in 2017/18, the Pythons have made good progress under Bird’s guidance, narrowly missing out on promotion as they finished third and then fourth in the two seasons prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That they have now gone one better and managed to escape the division after a couple of years spent knocking on the door comes as no real surprise to their head coach.

“I’ve always believed in these boys,” he added.

“We had a couple of frustrating years where we just missed out on promotion where I knew we were good enough to go up but we just couldn’t quite pull it off.

“I’ve never doubted the ability in the squad, I’ve always known how good a team we are, it was just about finding that consistency and putting it all together.

“It’s something that I’ve worked tirelessly towards for the last five years. It feels like a great coaching achievement and I’m really pleased we have finally got there in the end.”

Proud though he is of the role he has played in the Pythons’ progression, Bird was quick to point out that plenty of others have played a big part.

“Obviously the players have done brilliantly and there’s a few who deserve a special mention,” he continued

“Sam Beagrie has been knocking about in the back-row for a few years before making the transition to the wing where he was performed brilliantly, scoring 22 tries this season despite missing the last few games through injury.

“Will Clough has scored more than 200 points, primarily with the boot, but he’s been really consistent kicking those penalties and conversions.

“And Scott Irvine, who is a real man mountain and very physical in his approach, has provided us with plenty of go-forward ball on what is his first season in senior rugby following a lengthy injury lay-off.

“And, off the field, the work that people like Peter Jasper, our commercial chair, and Julian Tatlow, our chairman, have done has been invaluable.

“They have enabled me to do what I do, to put on the best training sessions we can for a club at our level, and we wouldn’t be where we are without all their hard work off the pitch.”