Harrogate RUFC beat Blaydon RFC with 13 homegrown players in their match-day squad

Securing a much-needed National Two North victory after five consecutive losses was not the biggest positive Harrogate RUFC were able to take away from Saturday’s win at Blaydon.

By Rhys Howell
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 12:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th January 2022, 12:55 pm
Jack Haydock was one of Harrogate RUFC's homegrown players to play, and score, in their recent National Two North triumph over Blaydon. Picture: Gerard Binks
Jack Haydock was one of Harrogate RUFC's homegrown players to play, and score, in their recent National Two North triumph over Blaydon. Picture: Gerard Binks

The Aces triumphed 29-12 on Tyneside, completing a league double over their fellow strugglers and registering just their third success in 15 attempts this term.

But, more pleasing for the director of rugby Dave Doherty than their return to winning ways was the fact that his side did so with a 20-man match-day squad comprising 13 homegrown players.

“Saturday’s result was fantastic, our performance was really, really good,” Doherty reflected.

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Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography

“But the biggest thing we’ll take away from that game is that so many of the boys who played were homegrown talent.

“Thirteen of the 20 in our squad have come through our juniors and into the seniors or only ever played rugby for Harrogate RUFC.

“The likes of our nine and 10, Kit Keith and Harry Yates, they’ve progressed all the way through from something like the under-sevens, into the Colts and then into the 1st VX where they’re now establishing themselves and will undoubtedly go on to become key players for us in years to come.

“It’s great to see all the work of the junior coaches and everyone else who has been involved in this process coming to fruition. It’s fantastically rewarding for a community rugby club like ourselves.”

That so many of Saturday’s squad either came through Harrogate’s junior set-up or cut their teeth at the club isn’t something that has happened by chance.

Since Doherty arrived at Rudding Lane in 2016, his focus has very much on been developing youngsters rather than spending a significant amount of a playing budget which he estimates to be as little as a tenth of some of those at the top end of National Two North on recruiting ready-made 1st XV players.

“This is how we want to operate," he added.

“Our aim going forwards is for the majority of our first team to be made up homegrown players.

“We have a fantastic, thriving junior section, so the aim is to develop our own young talent, to invest in these boys and in being able to provide them with the best possible coaching and development opportunities.

“Rather than looking to spend loads of cash on recruiting players to come straight into the 1st XV, our model is to invest in our own youngsters and create a sustainable pathway for the best talent from in and around the Harrogate area.”

Young winger Jack Haydock’s try gave ‘Gate an early lead at Blaydon, but the hosts hit back soon afterwards to level matters at 7-7.

Hooker Steve Maycock went over to restore the away advantage before half-time, then added a second after the interval.

Centre Sam Fox then made it 24-7,only for Blaydon to again respond and keep themselves in the contest.

But, Harrogate had the final say when scrum-half Kit Keith dived over late on.

This weekend, the Aces will face a much sterner examination when they entertain a Fylde side who currently sit third in the table with 13 victories to their name from 17 attempts.

The previous encounter between the two sides did not go well for ‘Gate with an injury-ravaged visiting outfit losing 80-26 back in September.

Kick-off at Rudding Lane on Saturday is at 2pm.