Harrogate RUFC shouldn't treat title decider differently to any other game, insists Martyn Wood

Harrogate RUFC took over at the top of the North One East table after beating Doncaster Phoenix 54-26 on Good Friday. Picture: Daniel KerrHarrogate RUFC took over at the top of the North One East table after beating Doncaster Phoenix 54-26 on Good Friday. Picture: Daniel Kerr
Harrogate RUFC took over at the top of the North One East table after beating Doncaster Phoenix 54-26 on Good Friday. Picture: Daniel Kerr
Martyn Wood insists that his Harrogate RUFC players have to treat Saturday’s final-day-of-the-season clash with Driffield RUFC as if it were just any other game.

The Aces know that they will be crowned North One East champions with a win, thus sealing an instant return to National Two North following their relegation at the end of 2022/23.

Good Friday’s comprehensive victory over Doncaster Phoenix saw the Rudding Lane outfit leapfrog rivals Heath and take over at the summit, where they now sit two points clear of second place.

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As a result, success against the Woldsmen – or simply matching or bettering Heath’s result – will guarantee they finish top, meaning that there is plenty of pressure on the ‘Gate players to deliver the goods.

Harrogate RUFC director of rugby, Martyn Wood. Picture: SubmittedHarrogate RUFC director of rugby, Martyn Wood. Picture: Submitted
Harrogate RUFC director of rugby, Martyn Wood. Picture: Submitted

But former England scrum-half Wood, who is the club’s director of rugby, has stressed that it is important to play the game and not the occasion.

"We’ve put ourselves in a position where if we win on Saturday then we win the league,” he said.

"So, it’s in our own hands, and that is what we wanted, to be in control of our own destiny. So, it’s down to us, and it is a massive occasion for the club, but we can’t treat the game any differently to any other.

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"We go into every game needing to win it, and so this one is no different. We don’t want there to be extra pressure on it, we just have to control the things we can control, make sure that we train well in the week and then perform to our best on Saturday.

“I know that the lads are all looking forward to it and the good thing is that we come into the game off the back of two good performances against a tough Doncaster Phoenix side.”

Standing between Harrogate and promotion are a Driffield side who sit fourth in the table and were very much in contention for the title themselves until last month when back-to-back defeats to Alnwick and Heath ended their hopes.

The Woldsmen beat Ilkley 34-20 last time out and have won 13 of 21 matches to date, with Wood certain that his own team will have to at their best if they are to come out on top this weekend.

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“We know that Driffield are a very good team, so Saturday is going to be tough,” he added.

“We can’t underestimate them, we will have to pull out all the stops if want to beat them.

“Although we came out on top, it was a difficult match at their place at the start of the season and they’ve had a fairly settled look about them more recently, we know what to expect.

“They like to spin the ball and play some open rugby, so we will have to be on our mettle to come away with the result that we need.”

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With Harrogate’s pitch at their Rudding Lane base once again unplayable, Saturday’s fixture has been switched to Knaresborough RUFC. Kick-off remains at 3pm.

A shuttle bus service will run from Rudding Lane to Knaresborough’s Hay-A-Park Lane, leaving every 25 minutes from 1.20pm onwards.

‘Gate still look forward to welcoming anyone who has booked for pre-match lunch in their clubhouse, and the bars will be open as usual both at Rudding Lane and at Knaresborough.

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