Harrogate RUFC climbed out of the National Two North relegation places courtesy of a thrilling victory over Luctonians at Rudding Park.
The Cockerels have been mired in the bottom three all season, but a 26-24 win moved them up to the heady heights of 12th in the league standings.
The lead changed hands several times during Saturday’s closely-fought encounter, with Dave Doherty’s men recovering from falling 17-12 behind early in the second half to seemingly have the game sewn up at 26-17 up in the final quarter.
A late surge brought the visitors to within two points however, and Harrogate had to work hard to see the game out in the closing stages.
The contest opened with a sustained spell of attacking pressure from Luctonians, which tested the home defence.
A strong break from centre Francis Kelly took play into Harrogate’s half and when the hosts went offside at a driving maul, Louis Silver’s penalty made it 3-0.
Soon afterwards, the visitors went offside themselves and a Doherty break was carried on by Keane Naylor who burst through the defence to touch down. Sam Fox’s conversion from out wide made the score 7-3.
The Luctonians re-start failed to go 10 metres and from the resulting scrum Harrogate demonstrated the power in their front eight, something which proved to be a feature of the match.
This pattern continued, resulting in a succession of Cockerels penalties but, eventually, the home team were adjudged to have scrummaged illegally and Luctonians set up a driving maul from the resulting line-out.
Connor Ward won great turnover ball in defence but the visitors mounted another backs attack from the clearing kick and Kelly went over for a converted try.
Trailing 10-7, Harrogate’s scrum domination continued with young tight head, Will Dennis proving to be a real handful.
The Brady brothers, Jake and Sam, were a powerhouses in the loose and, on the stroke of half time, a huge driving maul ended with a Ward try that put Harrogate 12-10 ahead.
The Luctonians scrum continued to struggle after the re-start but were allowed to get away with, even by today’s standards, some quite extraordinary feeding. They set up a driving maul from good scrum ball and flanker Henry Monkley drove over for a converted try to make the score 17-12.
The visitors’ advantage did not last long, however, and minutes later Harrogate used their own driving maul to good effect and Guy Coser’s converted try restored his side’s lead.
Another outstanding touchdown then followed and seemed to have put Doherty’s team in an unassailable position.
Oli Rosillo made progress down the left wing from deep and, after an initial break, outstripped the defence for a 50-metre converted try.
However, Luctonians fought back strongly and their efforts bore fruit after Sam Brady was yellow carded for a technical offence.
A ‘creative’ scrum feed gave them attacking ball and Tom Dodd’s converted try closed the gap at 26-24, but Harrogate managed to hold on to see the game out.