Harrogate crash to Preston Grasshoppers defeat

Willem Enslin runs at the Preston defence. Photo by Richard Bown
Willem Enslin runs at the Preston defence. Photo by Richard Bown

Harrogate rugby club put in their worst performance of the season in suffering a fifth defeat on the trot at Preston Grasshoppers.

Mike Aspinall’s men, aiming for a third placed finish in National Two North, crashed to a 21-12 defeat in Lancashire.

After a period of narrow, unlucky losses, Harrogate were able to field an almost full strength team and travelled to Preston with confidence.

They had 70 per cent of the 1st half possession but, with clinical efficiency, Preston scored almost every time they got into the Harrogate 22.

Preston increasingly dominated In the second half but strong Harrogate defence prevented them from scoring and the visitors were awarded a penalty try in a late incursion.

Harrogate opened with their customary attacking play. Willem Enslin was put into space on the left by a long Callum Irvine pass and ran strongly.

However, in a foretaste of things to come, the final pass went astray.

More Harrogate handling errors followed, a Preston attacking kick ahead went dead but they mounted another attack from the 22 drop out.

Centre, Billy Woof carved a hole in Harrogate’s defence and gave a scoring pass to flanker Andrew Napier. Lewis Allen’s conversion made it 7-0, totally against the run of play.

The Harrogate pack continued to deliver good ball with Enslin and Jonny Coser to the fore but the midfield errors continued.

Kerry Wood orchestrated a driving maul from an attacking line-out and drove over to score and make it 7-5. However, a Harrogate offside offence then led to a Preston attacking line-out.

Flanker, Ally Murray won the ball, burst through Harrogate’s line and several more defenders for a 20 metres converted try.

In the final move of the half, Harrogate were adjudged to have offended at a home driving maul and Preston were awarded a penalty try.

Preston spent large periods of the second half camped on the Harrogate line but heroic defence kept them out.

Scrum-half, Danny Matthews’s tackling was outstanding against much bigger men. Promising Harrogate turnovers were thwarted by continued handling mistakes.

In almost the last move of the match, Harrogate set up another well controlled driving 30 metres driving maul. Preston prevented the score by pulling down illegally and a penalty try was awarded.

Preston Grasshoppers: Jordan, Baines, Russell, Woof, O’Donnell, Allen, Kindred, McGuiness, Mills, Altham, Tomlinson, Banks, A Murray, Napier, Taylor. Subs (all used) Wilkinson, Madden, Morton, Lees, M Murray

Harrogate: Rowntree, Bottomley, Minikin, Dench, Parrish, Irvine, Matthews, Boyde, Yorke, Reaveley, Brady, Harvey, Coser, Wood, Enslin. Subs (all used) Nyemba, Kirkley, Dewsnip, Morland, Edwards.

Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick (RFU)