Harrogate RUFC boosted their hopes of securing a promotion play-off spot when they beat Morley 12-0 at the Stratstone Stadium.
The Aces moved level on points with second-placed Lymm in the National Three North standings, taking advantage of the Cheshire outfit’s surprise defeat to Ilkley and the inactivity of fellow promotion-hopefuls Hull.
‘Gate began the weekend in fourth position in the league standings, but the fifth win of a fine six-game unbeaten run since the turn of the year saw them climb a place, much to the delight of director of rugby Dave Doherty.
“This was a tough game against a physical Morley side in difficult conditions, but I’m very happy to get the four points,” he said.
“Results elsewhere mean that we’re up a place in the league and we just can’t wait for the next game now.”
Saturday’s contest was a hardly a classic, but both sides showed plenty of heart and endeavour on a heavy surface that was already badly cut up before the players had set foot on it.
The difference in the end was a ferocious, relentless defensive effort by ‘Gate, who barely missed a single tackle throughout the 80 minutes.
Although Morley did engineer a number of decent attacking opportunities, such was the pressure put on them by the home side they consistently coughed up possession in Harrogate territory and never really threatened a score.
There was very little to choose between the teams during the opening exchanges, and although Doherty’s charges spent slightly more time on the front foot, handling errors and the referee’s whistle checked their initial momentum.
Eventually, a Morley offside offence allowed ‘Gate fly-half Luke White to kick to the corner where Sam Brady won clean line-out ball and set up a driving maul.
The home pack forced their way over the line and flanker Guy Coser applied the final touch before White booted over an excellent 26th-minute conversion, not too far in from the touchline.
The game continued to ebb and flow, but there was little other action of note before the interval with both sides’ defences firmly on top.
Visiting fly-half Mark Chester’s kick in behind caused ‘Gate one moment of concern, but the loose ball was knocked-on close to the try-line and the chance evaporated.
The home forwards had shaded the first 40, and they picked up where they left off at the start of the second period.
Another offside offence offered the hosts the chance to kick for touch and their tried and tested catch-and-drive routine again got them on the scoresheet, this time big lock Andy Boyde dotting down.
White’s coversion fell well short of the posts, but with a 12-0 lead in the 49th minute and their pack in the ascendancy, the Aces were firmly in control of proceedings.
Knowing that they now had to force the issue, Morley did manage to put ‘Gate under some pressure, but they found it difficult to punch holes or find gaps in the home defence.
One decent attacking spell was ended by a knock-on and the same fate befell the visitors shortly afterwards in the face of more strong Harrogate tackling.
Three further raids were ended by Morley men passing the ball to home players, while at the other end, centre Luke Edwards danced through heavy traffic in midfield before White sent a grubber kick to the corner, however the visitors recovered to touch it down.
‘Gate never really looked in too much danger and saw the game out comfortably, despite an extended period of added-time.
In an increasingly fractious second half, Harrogate prop Harry Butler and Morley’s Ollie Flegg has already been sin-binned following a skirmish before visiting skipper Chester was sent off in the dying seconds.
His dismissal was a result of a dust-up on the floor with ‘Gate second row Brady, who was yellow-carded for his part, but the late drama made no difference whatsoever to the outcome of the match.
Next up for ‘Gate is a trip to seventh-placed Rossendale on Saturday.