Harrogate RUFC's fine showing against Rotherham Titans bodes well for the future, says Dave Doherty
Dave Doherty believes that the future is bright for Harrogate RUFC on the basis of their recent performance against National Two North title-chasers Rotherham Titans.
The injury-plagued Aces have endured a difficult season to date and won just twice in 13 attempts, though they gave a good account of themselves during Saturday's 26-10 loss to their Yorkshire rivals.
Missing somewhere in the region of 15 first-team regulars, the Rudding Lane outfit were forced to field an extremely inexperienced back-line against second-placed Rotherham. And while his young side didn't manage to come away with a result, Doherty insists that each and every player rose to the challenge.
"We played so well on Saturday against what is pretty much a National One side with a lot of Championship experience," he said.
"If the boys can carry that level of performance forwards then we'll be in a great place next season. We're building as a group and our young players are learning together at this level of senior rugby.
"Naturally, the young players will grow both physically and in terms of their competency, but they are developing quicker because of the amount of exposure to National Two rugby they are getting this year.
"If they can continue to show the kind of character that we saw against Rotherham and they can add elements to their game - like being able to put points on the board at key times in games - then we will do really well."
Kit Keith's penalty handed 'Gate an early 3-0 lead against a Titans side who are unbeaten in 12 outings this term, and the hosts remained in front until the 27th minute.
Two tries during the closing stages on the opening 40 followed by another shortly after the resumption put Rotherham in control at 19-3, however Steve Maycock was next to cross the whitewash and Keith's conversion reduced the deficit to nine points.
Harrogate continued to ask questions right up until the death, but from the last play of the game, the visitors registered their fourth touchdown of the contest.
"I'd say that Rotherham must have had a two-stone-per-man advantage over us, but we didn't just compete we had the ascendancy in certain areas," Doherty added.
"Rotherham's front row have been cleaning up against pretty much everyone they have played, however I felt that we more than matched them in that department
"When we scored our try in the second half and got it back to 19-10 we had a great opportunity on their line to go over again and I think with a bit more experience on the pitch we could have executed there.
"That would have put Rotherham under some real pressure because I'm sure they will have turned up expecting an easy five points.
"In the end, they've used their size advantage to score a couple of tries from driving mauls and we have also made some silly errors, but overall I'm pleased with our boys.
Next up for Harrogate is a derby showdown away at Wharfedale, 2pm kick-off on Saturday.