‘Gate chief: ‘We will be back’

Harrogate RUFC's director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography
Harrogate RUFC's director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography

Harrogate RUFC’s director of rugby Dave Doherty is confident that his side will make an immediate return to National Two North next season.

The Rudding Lane outfit were relegated after they failed to better Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Tigers’ result on the final day of the 2016/17 campaign.

Yet Doherty expects to keep the nucleus of his promising young squad together despite the demotion and believes that doing so will leave the Aces well-equipped to bounce back at the first attempt.

“I’m very confident that we can come straight back up, we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that happens,” he said.

“It will be extremely difficult as National Three North is a tough division and we’ll be up against some strong sides, but I’m hopeful that we’ll keep the vast majority of our current squad together and be well-equipped for the task.

“It’s inevitable that some of our players will move on, and we’ll never stand in the way of lads with ambition, but most of this squad enjoy the environment here.

“The spirit in the dressing room after the loss at Hinckley was really encouraging and I know that a lot of the boys in there still want to be a part of this club and help us get back into National Two North.”

Doherty’s men went into the last fixture of the season inside the division’s bottom three, but knowing that victory at Hinckley, combined with the outcome of fixtures elsewhere going in their favour, could still see them beat the drop.

With the bottom two sides in National Two North and South to be demoted alongside the team finishing third from last with the poorest playing record, there was still all to play for for a number of clubs at 3pm on Saturday.

Results in National Two South meant that the side that ended up two places from the bottom of the pile finished on 51 points, a tally that it was impossible for ‘Gate to better, even if they could secure a four-try bonus point victory in Leicestershire.

This effectively left them needing to better Sheffield Tigers’ result on the day, the South Yorkshire outfit kicking off one position and one point above them in the table.

And although things were looking good for the men from Rudding Lane at half-time with them 17-5 up and the Tigers trailing 17-10 at Luctonians, second-period turnarounds in both games condemned ‘Gate to demotion to National Three North alongside Scunthorpe and Preston Grasshoppers.

“Having played so well at Hinckley and been ahead all the way through the game, to lose 32-31 in the 79th minute is really hard to take,” Doherty continued.

“In the end, our result was irrelevant because Sheffield won, but it would have been nice to finish off with a victory.

“We’re bitterly disappointed to have gone down, but we must learn from this experience and come back stronger.”