Derby defeat dumps ‘Gate into drop zone

Harrogate RUFC are in real danger of being relegated from National Two North after a home defeat to local rivals Otley. Picture: Richard Bown
Harrogate RUFC are in real danger of being relegated from National Two North after a home defeat to local rivals Otley. Picture: Richard Bown

Harrogate RUFC dropped into the National Two North relegation zone after losing out 35-15 to derby rivals Otley.

Dave Doherty’s side were second best for much of Saturday’s encounter at Rudding Lane and could easily have gone down by a bigger scoreline.

The Cockerels’ defeat, combined with a bonus-point win for Sheffield Tigers over South Leicester sees them fall a place to 14th with just one game of the season remaining.

‘Gate are only a point behind the South Yorkshiremen - whom they meet in the final of the Yorkshire Cup on Wednesday evening - but know that they will have to better the Tigers’ result at Luctonians when they visit Hinckley next weekend if they are to survive.

“Fair play to Otley, they performed very well and deserved their win,” Doherty reflected.

“They had a fairly simple game plan to try and keep hold of the ball in our half of the field and it worked for them.

“We couldn’t stop them at the gain-line and that has led to them being able to score points.

“We weren’t helped by a couple of injuries to our back line which disrupted things, but I don’t want to make excuses and take anything away from Otley.

“This was a big match for us and one that we needed to win, so I’m really frustrated.

“There are no positives to take from the game, but we must learn from it.

“We now know that we have to go to Hinckley in our final game of the season and get a result there.”

Fly-half Jack Blakeney-Edwards converted his own try to give Otley an early lead, but ‘Gate levelled things up almost immediately through Sam Fox’s penalty try after a driving maul was illegally halted close to the visitors’ line.

With away prop Tipi Loma Kiva Lu in the sin-bin following the indiscretion that led to the hosts’ equalising score, ‘Gate looked to make the most of their numercial advantage and Keane Naylor almost went over in the corner, but was forced into touch just short.

Full-back Tom Hodson then dotted down to move Otley back in front, and their lead was stretched to 21-7 through prop Jason Moss’ effort.

A Fox penalty reduced the arrears before half-time, and although there hadn’t been too much between the sides during the opening 40 minutes, a ruthlessness in the final third of the pitch left the Beavers in the driving seat at the interval.

Otley were held up over the try-line at the start of the second period then saw an effort from replacement front row Adam Blades disallowed for an apparent double movement, before play switched to the other end and ‘Gate began to exert some pressure of their own.

The Cockerels went through phase after phase inside the away 22 before Fox eventually flung a looping pass out to Ben Dixon who made no mistake from close range.

With the game very much in the balance at 21-15 with 20 minutes remaining, it looked like the momentum was with Doherty’s men, but a good Otley counter seemed to have brought about a second try of the afternoon for Hodson.

He burst through a gap and was about to touch the ball down when he was nailed by Harry Barnard in the in-goal area and the ball was lost from the visiting number 15’s grasp before he could apply the finishing touch.

Undeterred, Otley came again and found another gear as ‘Gate began to wilt in the final quarter of an hour.

A spell of pressure on the home line led to a penalty try being awarded and Blakeney-Edwards made no mistake with the kick, stretching his side’s advantage to 28-15.

The Cross Green outfit were then adjudged to have been held up over the line for a third time in the second half, but flanker Tom O’Donnell did eventually put the game to bed and rounded off a miserable day for the men from Rudding Lane with try number four.