Harrogate RUFC recorded a fourth consecutive victory in National Three North, totally outclassing visiting Rossendale at the Stratstone Stadium.
The 36-3 scoreline gives some indication of how much better Dave Doherty’s men were than their Lancastrian opponents, but in truth the Aces could have won by a greater margin.
They went in front with just 12 minutes on the clock and never looked back, remaining in complete control of the contest thereafter, yet despite the comprehensive manner of their win, ‘Gate director of rugby Doherty feels his players have more to offer.
“The boys played well but I still know that we can do better,” Doherty reflected.
“A lot of our play and our shape was good, but the execution wasn’t always there. We can definitely be more accurate.
“Rossendale are a strong side, however, and I think we made them look pretty ordinary on the day. Our line speed was very quick in defence and they couldn’t live with that.
“Overall I’m pleased with the result, but as a coach it’s my job to always look at how we can keep improving.”
With a strong wind behind them, Rossendale spent the opening minutes of the contest in Harrogate territory, but the hosts soon seized the asendancy.
Jonny Coser had already been adjudged to have been held up over the try-line following a catch-and-drive from a line-out when ‘Gate got their noses in front as they continued to turn the screw.
A driving maul rumbled ominously forwards and hooker Aarin Yorke managed to apply the finishing touch, however Luke White was off target with his conversion attempt.
White made amends shortly afterwards when he landed a penalty from in front of the posts to put the Aces 8-0 up before the highlight of Rossendale’s afternoon arrived with 19 minutes on the clock, fly-half Louis Allen slotting over a long-range penalty to trim the gap.
‘Gate began to dominate possession and they got a second try as stand-in number eight Jonny Coser popped up on the wing and touched down in the corner after the ball had been worked nicely from right to left.
White missed a tough conversion, kicking into the wind from close to the touchline, but at 13-3 up, the home team looked more than comfortable.
Another penalty from Harrogate’s number 10 took the score to 16-3 before half-time and the match was all but over for Rossendale within seconds of the second period kicking off.
Another fluent attack ended with Jonny Coser joining the line to create the extra man and galloping over wide on the left flank for his second touchdown of the day.
Soon afterwards, ‘Gate struck again following another spell of positive offensive play.
Good hands across the field saw full-back Andrew Lawson close in on the try-line before he put winger Luke Edwards over in the corner for the Aces’ bonus-point score.
This time, White added the extras with a well-struck kick, and at 28-3 in the 52nd minute it seemed merely a case of how many more points Doherty’s team would put on the scoreboard.
They continued to play some slick stuff in conditions that were far from ideal for fluid, running rugby, while by stark contrast, the visitors were dreadful in possession of the ball, failing to make any real ground in the face of a keen Harrogate defence.
Rossendale did manage to string a few phases of play together in the home half around the hour-mark, but ‘Gate never looked in too much trouble and were soon back on the front foot.
White booted over a third penalty goal of the day for a 31-3 advantage and, as the visitors’ frustrations grew, a bout of handbags ensued at a ruck.
Order was quickly restored, but Rossendale lock Reece Tomlinson was rightly sin-binned for a stamping offence followed up with a couple of cowardly cheap shots aimed at the head of a home player trapped on the floor.
Inevitably, Doherty’s side were to take advantage of the Lancastrians being down to 14 men, and with time almost up, Jake Brady - back in a Harrogate shirt on a one-week loan deal from Darlington Mowden Park - stole line-out ball.
The Aces launched a big drive towards the line and flanker Jack Spurr took the ball over the whitewash for a maiden 1st XV try.
Rossendale wing Fraser Lindsay almost got in for a last-gasp consolation score in the final seconds, but he was forced wide and just about into touch by some superb individual defensive work by his opposite number, the impressive Edwards.
Re-united with his brother in the second row, it was the younger Brady, Sam, who took the man of the match award on his 100th appearance for the club, but there were strong performances across the park in what must rank as one of Harrogate’s most polished displays of the campaign.
Victory means that the men from Rudding Lane remain third in the National Three North standings ahead of this weekend’s trip to struggling Pocklington.