“Desperation” for first win is holding Gate back

Harrogate RUFC were beaten by Sheffield Tigers last time out. Picture: Adrian Murray
Harrogate RUFC were beaten by Sheffield Tigers last time out. Picture: Adrian Murray

The “desperation” that has taken hold in Harrogate RUFC’s search for a first win of the season is holding them back, according to director of rugby Dave Doherty.

Gate go to Stourbridge this weekend on the back of a fifth successive defeat in National League Two North, a 24-17 loss to Sheffield Tigers.

Doherty feels that his team’s apprehension at their slow start to the season contributed to the number of defensive lapses against Sheffield, especially in the second half.

“We controlled lots of parts of the game but some others we didn’t,” he said.

“In the second half we gave them a lot of opportunities to run at us with a lack of pressure in defence.

“With 15 minutes to go we were in the lead but then went out of system in defence and their attacking back three made it pay.

“We noticed a lot of people diving in to tackles, which comes with the fact that we’ve had a few losses and the boys are desperate to get back to winning ways.

“You could see there were nervous elements and from the first play of the game people were over-guessing what was happening and over-chasing in case somebody missed a tackle.”

Although visiting winger Alex Graham crossed the whitewash with an early try before Harrogate had even touched the ball, the home side held the lead for long periods at Rudding Lane.

Doherty believes that his side are in a process of gaining the experience needed to hold on to winning positions.

“We need to believe in what we’re doing at certain critical moments- where a lot of the boys probably haven’t been before,” he added.

“They’ve been asked to make decisions and close out games, to play in the right areas.

“We’ve got to learn how to put games like that to bed, it’s a game we definitely could have won and that’s why it’s so disappointing really.”

Ahead of games against highly-fancied Stourbridge and Leicester Lions, Doherty thinks that an underdog tag might suit his charges.

“It’s good for us to test ourselves against the best,” he said.

“We saw against Chinnor in pre-season that we can compete with anyone on our day.

“Sometimes when you’re a younger side you deal better as underdogs.

“Against Sheffield when we were down to 14 men, that was our best phase of rugby.

“Going into the lead almost withheld us as maybe we’re not used to it and our players need a bit more experience at first-team level.”

Due to a catalogue of injuries, Doherty has been forced into action at outside centre in recent weeks which has clearly detracted from his ability to dictate in-game strategy.

The club’s coaching staff has been drawn elsewhere of late due to injury and work commitments but with returnees expected, Doherty - who also owns building and property developing companies - is looking forward to the chance to observe his team from a distance.

“I’m spending a lot of time trying to get this right,” he said.

“The boys need a lot of time in terms of coaching a new philosophy.

“It gives them a lot more scope to make decisions, which is potentially why we’re seeing a lot of basic errors because they’re possibly thinking more about what the opposition are doing rather than being drilled into what they are playing.

“That will always be my philosophy but I may need to put a bit more structure in just so the boys are more comfortable in their roles.”