Harrogate RUFC Ladies pull clear at the top after ninth straight victory

Simone Christopher on the run during Harrogate RUFC Ladies victory at Manchester. Picture: Richard Bown
Simone Christopher on the run during Harrogate RUFC Ladies victory at Manchester. Picture: Richard Bown

Harrogate RUFC Ladies moved 20 points clear at the top of Women’s National Championship North Division Two, seeing off Manchester away from home.

The 41-7 victory was Lucy Barnett’s team’s ninth in succession but was hard-earned after their hosts began strongly.

The first 10 minutes saw Manchester enjoy the majority of possession with a vast number of penalties awarded against the visitors.

Harrogate pressure in defence did eventually force the home side to kick the ball clear, however, and Lauren Bolger managed to pick up possession before racing around the edge of the Mancunians’ defensive line and touching down.

This score was closely followed by another Bolger try.

Manchester were punished once again for kicking the ball away as the ‘Gate ace’s second arrived in almost identical fashion.

Bolger then kicked over the extras herself for a 12-0 advantage.

Undeterred, Manchester applied real pressure from the re-start, forcing the visitors to work hard in defence.

Some huge tackles were made by the away forwards with number eight Anna Hamilton and second row Annie Lyles seemingly throwing opposition players around for fun.

‘Gate winger Simone Christopher then claimed possession and sprinted from within her own 22 to score under the sticks, Bolger converting to make it 19-0.

The visitors were to come under more pressure, but again they managed to hold out before Alex Wallace punished Manchester for being sloppy with the ball in hand.

She covered some serious ground before stepping the last line of defence and diving over the whitewash for 24-0.

The home side finally managed to make a breakthrough when Harrogate had a player sin-binned for a high tackle.

A scrum close to the visitors’ line was then collapsed and the referee awarded a penalty try, narrowing the gap to 24-7.

There were no more points scored before half-time, though ‘Gate went close to extending their advantage after Wallace combined with Izzy Harris, only for the latter to be stopped just short.

Sarah Foster then sent a Manchester player staggering backwards at pace after a big tackle, managing to force a turnover in her team’s favour.

Subsequently, the ball was shipped out to the left wing and again into the hands of Harris.

This time she did manage to apply a finishing touch, however, much to the visitors’ surprise, the ‘score’ was disallowed by the referee for an alleged crossing offence.

Harrogate were not to be denied, however, and Wallace touched down shortly afterwards following a quick tap and go.

Wallace then got her hands on the ball once more, following some solid phases of play by the forwards.

She handed-off an opponent and went over to complete her hat-trick try, taking the score to 36-7.

The final play of the match saw winger Ellen Armstrong add another touchdown to wrap things up.

Next up for unbeaten ‘Gate is a trip to tackle Southport on Sunday.