'˜Gate extend fine start to year with home success over Kirkby

Harrogate RUFC claimed a bonus-point victory over Kirkby Lonsdale on a mudbath of a pitch at the Stratstone Stadium.

Harrogate RUFC's Keane Naylor outstrips the Kirkby Lonsdale defence. Picture: Richard Bown
Harrogate RUFC's Keane Naylor outstrips the Kirkby Lonsdale defence. Picture: Richard Bown

Unbeaten in five National Three North games in 2018, the Aces remain in the hunt for a play-off spot following a 28-10 success, their fourth since the turn of the year.

After a late pitch inspection, both captains agreed that the match should be played on a wet, heavy surface and, despite the difficult conditions, the watching crowd were treated to an enthralling game of high-quality rugby.

Kirkby came into the fixture boosted by inflicting a first league defeat of the season on runaway leaders Preston Grasshoppers last time out, however, in the end, Harrogate’s forward superiority proved decisive.

Flanker Guy Coser fielded the ball from the visitors’ kick-off and ran strongly to set up position for a driving maul from the supporting forwards.

The ball was then spread wide from an attacking scrum and it was again Guy Coser who was in support to sprint through the cover and score a try converted by Luke White.

Kirkby were next to strike after a free-kick was awarded for a ‘Gate line-out offence. The kick was taken quickly and scrum-half Ben Walker darted through for a touchdown to make the score 7-5.

The hosts then won a penalty for an offside offence and a 15-metre driving maul followed good line-out ball.

Kirkby knocked on in defence and, from Harrogate’s attacking scrum, Charley Purkiss-McEndoo drove over for a converted try.

The away team attacked at every opportunity but Rudding Lane outfit’s defence held out in spite of a succession of penalties being awarded against them. Home full-back Dave Doherty then produced a fine attacking chip through from defence and the follow-up forced Kirkby to go offside.

In almost identical fashion to their previous try, a Harrogate forward drive followed the attacking line-out and Purkiss-McEndoo again added the finishing touch.

Fly-half White added the extras with the boot for a commanding 21-5 lead at the interval.

A visibly fired-up visiting side attacked from the start of the second half, but Harrogate’s defence held firm.

A great Jonny Coser turnover set up a strong Keane Naylor run and attacking chip, however the Kirkby defence won the chase to touch down over the goal-line.

Tom Harvey then charged down an attempted clearance and managed to regain possession to set up a ‘Gate counter-attack.

Second rows Sam Brady and Andy Boyde ran strongly at the Kirkby defence to continue the momentum and the pressure built on the visitors.

Eventually, White was able to tuck in behind a driving maul and make his way over the whitewash for a bonus-point-winning try before his own touchline conversion made it 28-5.

To Kirkby’s credit, they continued to attack despite the game looking beyond them.

The ‘Gate scrum drove away pack backwards but they were penalised and more attacks followed.

Number eight Jonny Coser was then yellow-carded and Kirkby opted for a succession of scrums but the seven-man Harrogate pack kep them at bay.

With time almost up, a clearance from a home boot missed touch and Kirkby were able to set up a counter attack where goof handling created a space for David Maka to run in a consolation score.

Doherty’s side remain fourth in the league standings following the result, but another bonus-point has seen them narrow the gap between themselves and second-placed Lymm and Hull, in third.

A home triumph over struggling Morley this Saturday could see ‘Gate climb up to second and into a play-off spot, if other results go their way.