Depleted '˜Gate suffer heavy defeat
A Harrogate RUFC side already depleted by injuries suffered a 40-10 home loss to Sedgley Park, playing the majority of the game with just 14 men.
A controversial second yellow card for Tom Larder saw the hooker dismissed before half-time, and although 33-3 down by the interval, Dave Doherty’s men showed tremendous character to actually draw the second period.
The Rudding Lane outfit began Saturday’s National Two North clash missing influential skipper Jake Brady, fly-half Sam Fox and fellow 1st XV regulars Jonny Coser, Noel Minikin and Danny Matthews.
And their collective absence was felt as Park enjoyed plenty of the ball in the early stages, launching wave after wave of attack.
Harrogate’s defence held out initially, and the hosts then countered until a knock-on lost them possession and Larder was yellow-carded for a technical offence.
From the resulting penalty, Sedgley winger Andy Riley outpaced the home defence for a try converted by Steve Collins in the 19th minute.
Moments later, a quickly-taken Park penalty led to a well-taken touchdown for opposite winger, Sam Lowthian.
Harrogate hit back quickly when visiting prop Ben Black went offside and Doherty’s penalty opened his side’s account for the afternoon, reducing the deficit at 12-3.
Park wasted little time in extending their lead, however, and their next converted try came from a driving maul with hooker Jonny Matthews applying the finishing touch.
Almost immediately a Sedgley backs attack was well supported by their forwards and Matthews was on hand once again to claim his second try. Collins again converted to move the score to 26-3.
Looking to establish a foothold in the match, the Cockerels then won good turnover ball and Sedgley were penalised for going offside.
However, after an intervention from one of match official Ben Rayner’s assitant-referee’s, the penalty was reversed for alleged stamping, leading to Larder’s permanent departure from the fray.
Although a man light, Harrogate’s defence then held out under a spell of Park pressure and the hosts even managed to steal one of their opponents’ attacking lines-outs.
Despite this defiance, in the last move of the half an astute Park chip was taken at pace by Riley who claimed his second converted try, moving the visitors 30 points ahead.
Harrogate opened the second half with determined attacks with their seven-man scrum making light of Sedgley’s numerical advantage.
However, a serious leg injury to home centre Alex Nesbitt led to a long delay until he was stretchered from the field.
This resulted in replacement Ben Dixon playing impressively, as did debutant Jack Starkey, who alternated between flanker and hooker throughout the match.
For the rest of the encounter, Harrogate’s 14 men matched Sedgley in defence and attack until Park flanker Sam Peet registered a try from a driving maul, converted by Collins for 40-3. S
hortly afterwards, Harrogate were reduced to 13 men when replacement forward Liam Hucknall was yellow-carded for a high-tackle, but it was to be the Cockerels who had the last word.
Showing great spirit, they continued to attack and Doherty made a midfield break before providing a scoring pass to Guy Coser to touch down in the 80th minute.
Doherty then kicked over the extra two points to round things off at 40-10, a result that keeps Harrogate 13th in the National Two North standings, just one place above the relegation zone.