Harrogate 7-21 Hinckley: Gate underwhelm in Doherty's first game in charge

Willem Enslin scored Harrogate's only try
Willem Enslin scored Harrogate's only try

Dave Doherty watched his new Harrogate side gift away 21 unanswered points in the first half in falling to an opening day defeat against newly-promoted Hinckley.

The visitors, containing several promising Wasps Academy players, hit the ground running in National Two Rugby and dominated the first half for power, and skill.

Dave Doherty

Dave Doherty

And while Harrogate controlled territory throughout the second half, they were only able to break through on one occasion.

Former Yorkshire Carnegie winger Doherty took over the reins at Rudding Lane following Mike Aspinall's decision to leave the club at the end of last season.

The director of rugby has been unable to sign any new faces in the off-season and fielded a young 'Gate outfit with Charlie Morgan at fly-half.

Club captain Jake Brady missed the game due to a knee injury and his presence in the pack was missed in the opening exchanges.

Harrogate gave away a succession of early penalties in the scrum and Hinckley were awarded a penalty try within six minutes - with 'Gate lucky not to lose a man to the sin-bin.

Connor Eastgate knocked over a simple conversion to give the visitors a seven-point lead.

Harrogate almost scored with their first foray into Hinckley territory when talented flanker Jonny Coser wrestled free and charged for the line only to be taken into touch.

And from one end, the ball went to the other in a matter of seconds for Hinckley's second score. Morgan attempted to get Harrogate's kicking game in order but instead found his boot charged down and young Wasps prospect Jacob Umaga kicked forward before touching down ahead of the covering defence.

Morgan's afternoon got worse when Harrogate finally forced an attacking penalty just outside the 22, but the young number 10 fluffed his lines to the left.

From the next opportunity in a similar position, Morgan opted to kick for touch but another poor kick from hands went square, gaining Harrogate just a metre inside the Hinckley 22.

Hinckley were dominant in the early scrums and seemed more equipped to handle the wet conditions, although breaks through the 'Gate defence were rare.

It was up front that the third try of the first half arrived as the Hinckley forwards bundled the ball over in the left corner, following another charged down kick earlier in the move.

The visitors were reduced to 14 men with three minutes of the first half remaining as Harrogate made their best set of phases and Noel Minikin was dragged back when attempting to collect an insistent Sam Brady pass.

The man advantage carried into the second half but Harrogate were unable to make the most of it as the hosts defended stoutly.

'Gate's breakthrough finally arrived with 25 minutes remaining as Willem Enslin capped a spell of forward pressure and went over the whitewash. Morgan put his past misses behind him to add two points.

By this point, the rain had begun to hammer down on the Rudding Lane pitch, which had seen Harrogate's 2nds win by six points earlier in the day.

The ball became increasingly greasy for the players to handle and errors and turnovers became common place in the final minutes.

All the pressure was with the home side, however, and Hinckley only made it into the Harrogate half with three minutes to play.

But despite the majority of possession, 'Gate failed to find the gaps to earn a bonus point and their performance was summed up by stand-in captain Tom Harvey's angry response to the final whistle, thudding the ball into the turf.