Delight for hat-trick hero Dave Doherty as Harrogate RUFC overcome injury crisis to sink derby rivals
Harrogate RUFC's director of rugby Dave Doherty was left delighted after seeing his depleted side kick-off 2019/20 with a comprehensive victory over local rivals Ilkley.
With half a dozen members of their back division either injured or struck down by illness, scrum-half Danny Matthews was forced to play at 10, while Doherty made a rare start at full-back.
Despite the re-shuffle, the Aces produced an impressive display, securing a bonus point by half-time on their way to a 38-7 away win.
"I'm really pleased with the result and performance. We were a bit concerned before the game with having so many players unavailable," Doherty reflected.
"Historically, we have been slow starters in recent seasons so getting a really positive result first up was something that we really wanted to do.
"Ilkley are a good young side, who are well-coached so to go there and win 38-7 puts a bit of a marker down. This is definitely something that we can build on.
"The most pleasing aspects for me were the way that we handled the ball and our defence. The boys were excellent."
Ex- London Wasps and Sale Sharks ace Doherty led by example, scoring a hat-trick of tries, but played down his own contribution on the day.
"I think I was seventh choice for a place in the back-three when we were picking a squad for this game, but there's nothing you can do about illness and we didn't want to risk Oli Rosillo after his shoulder went into spasm," he said.
"I really enjoyed being out there with the boys, however I'm confident that most of our lads would have finished off the chances that I had. I was just on the end of some good passes.
"Of course I will keep myself in condition to come in and play when required, it's important to have some cover and at times last season we lacked strength-in-depth."
'Gate fielded a number of their new signings on Saturday and Doherty was left pleased by their contribution.
"Sam Parry did very well on the wing, scoring two tries, Brandon Hannam carried to good effect in the second row and our two new props Dom Musetti and George Martin helped us dominate in the scrum," the Aces chief added.
"Brandon really stood out with the amount of work he got through. He is deceptively mobile for such a big fella and adds an extra dimension to our game.
"We were also able to give Ben Thewliss an opportunity. He's a young lad with lots of potential and showed what he's capable of when he came on."
Doherty broke the deadlock early on, creating an overlap to score in the corner following a swift move from an attacking scrum.
Sam Fox added the extras with a touchline conversion before Doherty went over again for 12-0 in the 15th minute.
A strong Harry Barnard run was then well-supported by debutant Parry, who finished off to put the visitors in control, Fox again converting.
Sam Brady then crashed over following Jonny Coser's break and a third successful kick at goal by Fox made it 26-0 at half-time.
Ilkley's Callum Smithson reduced the deficit with a try early in the second period, however Parry's second of the day followed soon afterwards and ended any hopes of a comeback.
The predatory Doherty then capitalised on a home player fumbling a Harrogate cross-kick to complete his hat-trick and round off the scoring late on.