Harrogate RUFC boosted by return of key men for Hull Ionians test

Harrogate RUFC have been boosted by the return of number of key men ahead of Saturday's home showdown with Hull Ionians.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 8:34 am
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 8:36 am
Luke Edwards returns to Harrogate RUFC's starting XV for Saturday's clash with Hull Ionians. Picture: Gerard Binks

The Aces were “well into double-figures” in terms of the number of senior 1st XV regulars missing for their 80-26 mauling by National Two North leaders Fylde last weekend.

Doherty was forced to field an extremely inexperienced side, handing first-team debuts to six players, while veteran forwards Tim Heaton and Ben Reaveley even had to come out of retirement to help make up the numbers.

Being without so many first-choice squad members obviously impacted on the scoreline, but things are starting to look somewhat healthier from a selection point of view.

Aces director of rugby, Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography

“I’ve never known anything like the situation we were faced with last weekend, I think we were on to Plan Z by the time we picked the team that started the game,” Doherty said.

“It was a tough day at the office, but the lads who stepped up all did well. There’s obviously things they need to work on, however there were lots of positives.

“Fraser Kitching, who has come all the way through from our under-eights, scoring a 78th-minute try to earn us a bonus point after coming on and not putting a foot wrong was the highlight.

“The good news is that we’ve had a lot of boys return to training this week and that provides us with a real boost.

“Harry Barnard, Jonny Coser, Martin Dodds, Marcus Mercer, Mason Knowles, Luke Edwards, Ben Whyte and Tom Driscoll could all be in contention, which will make a massive difference. They’re probably not all going to end up making it, they probably won’t all be ready for Saturday, however there is a lot of quality there that we have been missing.”

It has subsequently been confirmed that Barnard and Edwards will take their places on the wing, while Dodds starts at flanker for the visit of Ionians. Driscoll and Whyte have been named on the replacements' bench.

The East Yorkshire outfit, who sit seventh in the table having won three out of four so far this term, head to Rudding Lane fresh from a 31-17 home win over Huddersfield last time out.

Thus, Doherty is expecting another extremely tough test.

“We’re under no illusions, this is going to be another very difficult game,” he added.

“Ionians are extremely strong in the set-piece and very physical. They have a certain way of playing and it has earned them promotion to National One on a number of occasions.

“They also boast Lewis Minikin, a former Harrogate player, at 13 and he is probably the best player in this league.”