Harrogate RUFC slumped to a fourth straight National Two North defeat when they went down 30-10 at Chester.
Dave Doherty’s troops enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during Saturday’s fixture, but that was about the only thing which their travelling supporters were able to enjoy.
In what was their worst performance of the season to date, the Rudding Lane outfit were thoroughly outplayed by a competent home side.
Harrogate started promisingly with well-won ball setting up a number of attacks and centre Keane Naylor making some threatening breaks.
However, after 10 minutes, Chester second row Ross White drove strongly, the ball was spread wide and prop Shaun Strudwick supported a flowing backs move to touch down for a try converted by Callum Bennett.
The next score of the afternoon was a penalty kick from Bennett after Harrogate had gone offside, the three points stretching the the hosts’ lead to 10-0.
The next incident of note saw a harsh yellow card brandished in the direction of Cockerels captain Jake Brady who was being held illegally in the first place before being adjudged to have freed himself in an overly vigorous manner.
During the big lock’s 10 minutes absence, Chester scored three more points from another Bennett penalty to go 13-0 up.
Then, in what proved to be the final action of the opening period, the home team went offside in defence and full-back Sean Green illegally prevented Harrogate from taking a quick penalty.
Green was dispatched to the sin-bin and Sam Fox’s successful penalty kick ended the half with the score at 13-3.
The third quarter of the contest proved to be the visitors’ best period. From the re-start, a thunderous midfield break by prop Connor Ward was well supported by Doherty and Chester’s defence was penalised.
Harrogate set up a driving maul from the attacking line-out but were then penalised.
Undeterred, they came again and Doherty took an astute Fox chip at speed, but was unable to deliver what would have been a scoring pass to his support.
On the opposite wing, Naylor’s pace saw him outstrip the home defence for what looked a certain try, but his foot grazed the touchline and play was brought back.
Harrogate continued to press but were then penalised and Chester’s pack drove strongly from an attacking line-out, allowing Alick Croft the chance to go over the line against the run of play as the home side landed a real sucker punch.
Back in the ascendancy, the hosts then put the game to bed when they touched down again after turnover ball was quickly released to wing Harrison Vane who did the rest.
An outstanding Naylor individual try proved to be Harrogate’s highlight of the match, the centre bursting through an attempted midfield tackle and outpacing the home defence from 35 metres
Doherty added the extras for 28-10 before the Chester defence managed to contained further attacks and the match was eventually ended with a converted try from home wing James Preston.
This latest defeat, coupled with a narrow victory for 14th-placed Scunthorpe, means that Harrogate now sit just two points abve the relegation zone with league leaders Caldy up next.