Caldy 26-31 Harrogate: Cockerels stave off late fightback to stay eighth in National Two North

Charles Morgan on the move forward for Harrogate against Caldy
Charles Morgan on the move forward for Harrogate against Caldy

Harrogate held off a spirited fightback by high-flying hosts Caldy to continue their mid-season revival with a third win in four matches.

A blistering start from the visitors put Harrogate into a 20-point lead in the first half.

But with the wind against them in the second period, the Cockerels allowed Caldy back into the contest and spent the final 10 minutes whole-heartedly defending their own line to maintain a bonus-point win.

“It was right to the wire,” admitted ‘Gate director of rugby Mike Aspinall.

“Credit to Caldy for coming back into it but we showed great character, we made it as hard as possible for them to score and held them up.

“I have spoken about the guys putting pride into our goal line, we really saw that character from the boys.”

The National Two North table

The National Two North table

Aspinall singled out Guy Coser’s performance with the flanker foraging tirelessly all game to win crucial turnovers.

Coser exited the field before the end with an injury but Aspinall was hopeful the youngster would be fit to face Preston Grasshoppers at Rudding Lane (2pm) on Saturday.

The coach said: “He was absolutely outstanding. It was probably one of the best number seven performances I have seen in a Harrogate shirt in a long time.”

Harrogate’s backs made good use of the possession Coser acquired early on and, when Caldy’s defence went offside, a Lewis Minikin penalty opened the scoring.

Sustained Harrogate pressure followed and a 20 metre driving maul ended with Coser touching down for a converted try. Caldy then went offside from another big Harrogate driving maul and Minikin’s penalty extended the lead.

A scintillating Callum Irvine break, supported by strong running from Sam Bottomley, led to all the backs linking well to put Minikin in for a converted try which put Harrogate into an apparently unassailable lead.

However, a missed touch kick led to a Caldy counter attack from deep and centre Tom Banks made the extra man for a try converted by Jack Lavin.

Harrogate made a mess of Caldy’s restart kick in the second half and allowed substitute prop Derek Salisbury to drive powerfully forward before spreading the ball wide for Nick Royle to score in the corner.

Stung by this, Harrogate’s attacks intensified. Charles Morgan and Irvine linked well to give Steve Parsons space to burst through and score.

This made it 25-12 but another ill-directed Harrogate kick resulted in Royle’s exceptional pace taking him over for a converted try. Harrogate went straight back on the offensive and another goal kick put them nine points to the good with 15 minutes remaining.

Caldy continued to attack at every opportunity and yet another missed Harrogate clearance led to Sanders scoring a try in support of good backs play.

The conversion made it 26-28 but, when Harrogate counter attacked, a high tackle on Irvine gave away a penalty.

Although this turned out to be the final score, the game was far from over. Repeated Caldy attacks tested Harrogate’s defence but the forwards held out for a narrow win.

Aspinall added: “We are suddenly seeing this group take ownership of what we are trying to do, and that can become a really powerful thing, especially when you see that dogged fight on your own goal line.”