Harrogate RUFC believe switch to uncontested scrums cost them victory over Loughborough Students

There is “very little doubt” in Dave Doherty’s mind that Harrogate RUFC would have gone on to beat Loughborough Students had uncontested scrums not been introduced after half an hour of Saturday’s National Two North clash.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 9:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 9:06 pm
Marcus Mercer scored Harrogate RUFC's first try against Loughborough Students. Pictures: Gerard Binks

The Aces were 15-0 up at Rudding Lane and very much in charge of proceedings when a second visiting front-row player left the field with a head injury.

This led to the university side informing referee Andy Morton that they were no longer able to raise a front-three capable of scrummaging, preventing their hosts from continuing to turn the screw in an area which they had been dominating.

The 10 minutes that followed saw Loughborough run in three unanswered tries to edge into a lead which they did not relinquish, eventually going on to triumph by a 24-15 scoreline.

Harrogate number eight Declan Thompson looks for a route to the Loughborough try-line.

“You’d be very naive to think that going to uncontested scrums didn’t have a massive say in the outcome of the game,” ‘Gate director of rugby Doherty reflected.

“We were 15-0 up after half an hour. We were playing some really good rugby and Loughborough were under a lot of pressure, but by half-time they are 17-15 ahead.

“There’s no doubting that they are a good team and they move the ball extremely well. I’d go as far as to say that they are the best attacking side in this league when they get their backs on the front foot.

“So, going to uncontested scrums certainly suited Loughborough – you could see that it visibly lifted their players. Their first try of the game came straight from the very-first uncontested scrum.

“There’s very little doubt in my mind that we would have gone on and won that game had we continued to scrummage. I’m certain that they would have scored points, but we were 15-0 up and in the ascendancy.”

Centre Marcus Mercer and prop Tom Baxter scored Harrogate's first-half tries after Kit Keith had kicked an early penalty to break the deadlock, but their efforts proved to be in vain.

Saturday's defeat was Doherty's side's eighth in 10 matches this season and sees them drop one place to second-from-bottom of the pile.

This Saturday, they visit Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield, who sit just one position above them in the National Two North standings.