Rugby Union: Chester 17-22 Harrogate | ‘Gate forwards dominate away victory
Well-organised defence paved the way for Harrogate to return to form with a bang and dent Chester’s plans for a third-placed finish in National Two North.
Both sets of backs treated the crowd to some exhilarating running rugby but it was Harrogate’s superior scrummaging which won them the day by five points.
It gives Mike Aspinall’s men the perfect benchmark ahead of this Saturday’s Yorkshire Cup semi-final at South Yorkshire club Wheatley Hills, of Northern Division North East One.
Harrogate’s front row of George Stuffins, Aarin Yorke and Ben Reaveley set their stall out for the afternoon in the opening scrum, winning it against the head.
Four minutes into the game, Reaveley won a midfield turnover and fed lock Andy Boyde who made a powerful run and gave Callum Irvine a beautifully timed scoring pass. The fly-half’s added a touchline conversion.
An even 10 minutes spell followed with Rhys Hayes and Tom Foden - brother of England international Ben - launching Chester attacks.
But Harrogate scrum half, Danny Matthews broke strongly from defence and the move was carried on by Lewis Minikin, Luke Edwards and Sam Bottomley. Harrogate then won another scrum against the head and a backs attack was stopped near the Chester line. From the ensuing driving maul, flanker, Kerry Wood drove over to score.
A high tackle by Hayes on Harrogate’s Kyle Dench led to Dench being replaced by Cam Leadley and Hayes being dispatched to the sin bin. Matthews, Irvine and Wood launched a Harrogate attack from inside their 22 but a spectacular one handed knock-on lost them possession. Chester countered with a series of driving mauls and Tom Foden darted through to score under the posts. Astonishingly, the attempted conversion failed.
Chester launched more attacks on the Harrogate line but, although the defence conceded penalties, they held out until Bottomley was sin-binned. The home forwards’ pressure continued until the ball was eventually released wide and centre John Ketland burst through to make it 12-10 to Harrogate at the interval.
After an even 15 minutes, Chester’s Kyle Joseph was sin binned for holding and Irvine’s penalty increased the Harrogate lead.
Harrogate then went into overdrive and continued pressure on the Chester line led to Willem Enslin powering his way over in the corner and Irvine added another excellent touchline conversion.
Chester have made several spectacular recoveries this season and mounted repeated attacks but Harrogate continued to defend well with Jonny Coser well to the fore.
But they were handicapped when replacement flanker, Noel Minikin was sin binned. Soon after an attacking line out led to Chester centre Max Himbury scoring a converted try.
This turned out to be the final score though Chester prop Gavin Woods was shown a yellow card late on for violent play.