Clinical first half the platform for crucial ‘Gate triumph

Luke Edwards scored Harrogate RUFC's first try at Rossendale. Picture: Richard Bown

Harrogate RUFC scored 21 unanswered first-half points to lay the foundations for a victory at Rossendale that moved them up to second in National Three North.

Finishing as runners-up would earn the Aces a promotion play-off place, and their bonus point for scoring four tries in Saturday’s clash took them up one position and above rivals Lymm.

Playing up a considerable slope in the first half, Harrogate’s forward dominance and some incisive back play saw them take a commanding lead into half-time.

Rossendale improved after the interval, but the visitors remained in control and added an all-important fourth touchdown in the latter stages.

The game started evenly, but the visitors quickly took charge at the set-piece, with props Connor Ward and Charley Purkiss-McEndoo in complete control.

Hooker Steve Maycock scrummaged as well as ever and was also a real force in the loose. However, the big Rossendale side was strong in contact with back row forwards Dom Moon and Ryan McKibbin to the fore.

Harrogate’s first score began with Oli Rosillo jumping high into the air to claim a home kick under great pressure.

Scrum-half Danny Matthews was in support and put in a trademark attacking kick from which Luke Edwards won the chase to touch down.

Luke White’s touchline conversion made the score 7-0 with 18 minutes on the clock.

Moments later, some fine driving by the ‘Gate forwards released Rosillo. The wing’s searing break was supported by number eight Jonny Coser, who powered through despairing attempted tackles to score.

White landed another touchline conversion and the visitors were looking good at 14-0 up by the mid-way point of the opening 40.

A powerful Andy Boyde run then scattered defenders to set up another attack with Dave Doherty and Harry Barnard linking well in the backs.

The pressure continued with a great Harrogate defensive scrum forcing Rossendale to concede a penalty.

This quickly led to good ball from an attacking scrum and Matthews burst through to score on the blind side, a try that was followed by White’s third touchline conversion.

Using the slope advantage well, Rossendale forced Harrogate to defend for the rest of the half, and this spell in the ascendancy led to Tom Harvey’s sin-binning on the stroke of half-time.

Early in the second period, the stretched 14-man ‘Gate defence were forced to concede a penalty and home flanker Phil Mills crashed over for a converted try, reducing the deficit at 21-7.

Making the most of their numerical advantage, strong Rossendale running continued to test the away defence.

For the rest of the match, Harrogate continually fell foul of the referee’s definition of a high tackle and conceded a stream of penalties.

A nasty clash of heads had led to Guy Coser having to leave the field and be replaced by veteran back row Tim Heaton, a man who made his debut for ‘Gate when the Coser twins were still in primary school.

In spite of this, the Harrogate defence held out and a fine Edwards break relieved the pressure.

His run was ended by a questionable tackle that surprisingly went unpunished and the men form Rudding Lane were immediately back on the defensive.

Some determined, hard-hitting tackling forced Rossendale to spill the ball, however, and Boyde gathered it before making a powerful half-break.

The big lock committed a defender to an attempted tackle and passed to substitute centre Euean Miller who swerved outside, beat the cover and touched down for a bonus-point try in the corner.

More from Sport