Rugby Union: Leicester Lions 20-30 Harrogate
With a solid scrummaging platform throughout the game, Harrogate played some breathtakingly attractive rugby to maintain their challenge for 3rd place in the League.
The Lions came back strongly in the 2nd half to make the game competitive but Harrogate outscored them by 5 tries to 3 and secured the all important bonus point.
Leicester’s fully stretched defence withstood the Harrogate attacks until they went offside and Callum Irvine’s penalty kick opened the scoring.
The pressure continued with half backs, Irvine and Danny Matthews, setting up skilful running and handling from Harry Parrish, Sam Bottomley and Cam Leadley.
Kyle Dench provided the midfield muscle and Lewis Minikin’s incursions from full back continued to stretch the home defence.
The pressure had to tell and, from Parrish’s initial break, quick handling gave Leadley just enough space to power over for the opening try.
The next try was created by Harrogate’s forward dominance. The front row trio of George Stuffins, Aarin Yorke and Ben Reaveley was driven forward in the scrums by Jake Brady and Andy Boyde.
A succession of driving mauls followed with Willem Enslin, Jonny Coser and Kerry Wood in complete control. Good ball was spun left and Parrish streaked through for a fine try.
A Lions counter attack was then ended by a high tackle and a John Hargreaves penalty opened the home scoring. This was only a temporary respite and the prolonged pressure led to repeated Leicester high tackles and an eventual sin binning for Drew Rudkin. Bottomley’s direct running was a constant threat and the next score came after one of his breaks was well supported by Stuffins and Boyde.
Leadley backed up well to score his second try just before the interval.
Harrogate had the wind advantage in the second half but failed to make the most of it and Leicester came more into the game with determined play.
A powerful Steve Cross run ended with a knock-on just short of Harrogate’s line. The Lions then won a strike against the head on a Harrogate scrum, set up a driving maul and Robert Young crashed over to score.
Within minutes, Harrogate responded in kind with one of their driving mauls and the outstanding Enslin scored to secure the bonus point.
Dench and giant Lions forward, Matt Tuckey, then had a midfield tussle which escalated into a brawl and they were both dispatched to the sin bin.
More Harrogate pressure led to Leicester going offside and an attacking line-out followed the penalty. Another well controlled driving maul set Boyde up for Harrogate’s fifth try, converted by Irvine.
This didn’t end the game by any means.
Leicester ended the match with determined attacks and Young drove over for his second try.
A Harrogate clearance was then charged down Lions hooker Oliver Taylor ran strongly to score a try converted by Jon Boden.
Leicester Lion: Williams, A Murdoch, Douglas, Cross, Nixon, Hargreaves, Hopewell, Spokes, Taylor, Murray, Knight, Tuckey, J Murdoch, Riley, Young. Subs used:- Tyers, Brownlie, Boden
Harrogate: L Minikin, Bottomley, Leadley, Dench, Parrish, Irvine, Matthews, Stuffins, Yorke, Reaveley, Brady, Boyde, Coser, Wood, Enslin. Subs used:- Nyemba, Wilson, Dewsnip, Barnard, Rowntree
Referee: Ben Davies (North)