Harrogate Pythons’ Yorkshire Three title hopes are out of their own hands following Saturday’s defeat to league leaders Wensleydale.
Victory for Dan Bird’s men would have left them within touching distance of their rivals and with a game in hand, however they now sit 10 points off the pace having lost out 39-14 away from home.
‘Dale took a sixth-minute lead when they kicked a penalty, though the Pythons looked set to hit back almost immediately following strong runs by Matt Leach and Nathan Wake, only for the charging Grant Weatherston to knock-on under the posts.
The hosts then went over at the other end to make the score 8-0, before Ned Rutty was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and the home pack took full advantage, adding a second try for a 15-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, ‘Gate pushed for a way back into the game, but ‘Dale managed to win back possession and spread the ball wide for another touchdown.
The game seemed to be all-but-over by the interval with the Pythons trailing by 20 points, and things got worse seven minutes after the resumption as the home side registered another converted try to make it 27-0.
Undeterred, Bird’s men forced an attacking scrum which provided the platform for their backs to apply some pressure.
Joe Bentham took an outside line, and when he was tackled, Jed Carr was on hand to pick up the ball and jink past the cover to open his team’s account.
Tom Breakwell added the extras to trim the gap at 27-7 in the 55th minute.
The introduction of Steve Smith gave ‘Gate an edge in the scrum and this forced ‘Dale on to the back foot.
They did still manage to add to their tally, however, as their centre broke through having embarked on a run from deep and fed the home full-back who dotted down.
Dan Shortman was then stopped just short by a high tackle as the Pythons rallied, and from the resulting scrum Jon Pickard made it over the whitewash, only to be held up.
The Pythons were not to be denied, however, and Ram Ismail eventually managed to apply a finishing touch for 34-14 with 10 minutes to play.
The last word went to ‘Dale in the end, the hosts bagging a sixth try when their full-back scored out wide to round things off at 39-14.