Why Harrogate RUFC 'warranted' their promotion to National Two North

Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light PhotographyHarrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography
Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography | other
“Delighted” Harrogate RUFC chief Dave Doherty believes that his side fully deserve their promotion to National Two North.

Having opted to abandon the 2019/20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Rugby Football Union has decided issues of promotion and relegation from the Championship downwards using a 'best playing record formula.'

The upshot of this is that ‘Gate have escaped the North Premier following a three-year stay, alongside Blaydon, who occupied top spot when the season was suspended after 22 matches.

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Doherty's men were third in the table at the time, but played a game less than both of the teams above them.

"Obviously we're delighted," the Rudding Lane outfit's director of rugby said.

"We'd rather have played out the remainder of the season and tried to win the title - that was our aim from the start of 2019/20 - but we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation.

"Personally, I think that we warranted promotion. On balance, I believe that the decision is a fair one.

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"We'd beaten Blaydon away on a 4G pitch and would have backed ourselves to beat them again at home. We'd also won home and away against Sandal, who were second, and one won of our two matches with Macclesfield, so all-in-all, our record against all of the top sides is very good.

"I know that Sandal and Macclesfield will have wanted to play all of their remaining fixtures and see how things ended up, but so did we. You just have to accept that the RFU had to make a decision."

While Doherty would be expected to reflect that his own team deserved to be promoted, there are plenty of statistics to back up his argument.

When the season was terminated, Harrogate sat in third place, five points behind leaders Blaydon, with a game in hand over the Durham outfit, whom they were still due to play at home.

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This meant that if the Aces had secured bonus-point victories in each of their remaining five fixtures – three of which were against teams in the bottom five – then they would have been guaranteed to finish in pole position.

They also boasted the highest win percentage (80.95%) of any team in the North Premier this term having triumphed in 17 of their 21 outings, plus the best points-per-game ratio (3.809) of all the sides beneath Blaydon (3.863).

The methodology used by the RFU to ultimately determine which sides finished where took into account each team’s average points-per-game total for completed home and away fixtures.

This average was then applied to all outstanding fixtures and added to a team’s points tally achieved in games up to the March 14 to decide their final league position.

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Using this formula, Harrogate ended up with a total of 99.51, just behind Blaydon (100.45) and narrowly ahead of Macclesfield (98.09).

Finishing second at the end of the regular season wouldn't have been enough to earn 'Gate automatic promotion in normal circumstances, but would have seen them qualify for a play-off with the club who secured runner-up spot in the Midlands Premier.

However, given that no more rugby will take place before the start of 2020/21, Doherty and his men were moved up a level ahead of Newport (Salop) of the Midlands Premier due to them having a superior playing record over the course of the recently-abandoned campaign.