Harrogate RUFC chief forced to re-assess title ambitions in the wake of damaging defeat
Harrogate RUFC’s hopes of winning the North Premier title were dented significantly when they lost on the road at Carlisle
With top-of-the-table Billingham boasting a 100 per cent record having won 11 out of 11 including their recent success at Rudding Lane, Dave Doherty’s side have very little margin for error as far as the battle for pole position is concerned.
And Saturday’s 29-17 defeat in Cumbria, their second in the space of four games, leaves the Aces 13 points behind the league leaders, albeit with a game in hand.
“We’re really disappointed,” reflected Doherty.
“This result makes the challenge of trying to catch Billingham a lot tougher. We have to play them again, of course, and that’s a fixture that we are really looking forward to, however we are now relying on them dropping points elsewhere.
“All we can really do, however, is concentrate on ourselves and on trying to win all of our games.
“Billingham have done so well this season because they’ve been so clinical when they’ve been on top in games and that is what let us down at Carlisle.
“We weathered the early storm and came back playing some fantastic rugby, got ourselves into a position to win the game, only to then waste a number of clear scoring opportunities when we should have put it to bed.”
Harrogate fell behind in Saturday’s clash when Jason Israel kicked an early penalty, but the visitors responded whenfly-half Harry Yates gathered a kick close to the touchline and countered with a searing 40-metre break.
The strong-running Martin Dodds was in support to score under the posts, Sam Fox adding the extras for 7-3.
‘Gate’s defence contained more home attacks and launched counter-raids of their own, but were eventually penalised at a breakdown and Israel’s penalty narrowed the gap to just a point at 7-6.
This was shortly followed by another breakdown offence and Carlisle’s third penalty conversion put them 9-7 ahead.
A good Matt Lansdall take then launched another counter-attack and Brandon Hannam charged down an attempted clearance to touchdown and make it 12-9 to ‘Gate at the interval.
Early in the second period, Carlisle drove over the Aces’ line from an attacking line-out for Henry Wainwright to score a converted try before Harrogate’s Tom Driscoll was yellow-carded for what was adjudged to be a high tackle.
The resulting penalty made it 19-12 and the hosts capitalised on their numerical advantage, Grant Connon touching down.
Another penalty took the home tally to 29 before ‘Gate’s Dodds crashed over for a consolation score at the death.
Harrogate will look to bounce back when they travel to second-placed Blaydon on Saturday, a clash that they really cannot afford to lose.