‘Gate play-off hopes ended despite fine away victory at Morley

Keane Naylor scored Harrogate RUFC's first try against Morley. Picture: Richard Bown
Keane Naylor scored Harrogate RUFC's first try against Morley. Picture: Richard Bown

Harrogate RUFC’s faint hopes of securing a National Three North play-off spot were ended on Saturday despite a comprehensive bonus-point victory over Morley.

Although Dave Doherty’s side recorded a 24-0 success on the road in West Yorkshire, a comprehensive win for promotion rivals Hull over Kirkby Lonsdale means that there is now no possibility of the men from Rudding Lane finishing in second place.

Already-relegated Morley competed well throughout the game but they were well contained by Harrogate’s defence, while the visitors’ four tries underlined their ability to finish clinically when it mattered.

From the outset, it was clear that ‘Gate’s forward superiority would be the crucial difference between the teams and the home scrum was under pressure throughout the 80 minutes.

It did however take until the 27th minute for the Rudding Lane outfit to make a breakthrough.

Following quick line-out ball, centre Euean Miller’s break split the home defence and he ran strongly before delivering a scoring pass to the supporting Keane Naylor.

The opening try was shortly followed by Morley’s best opportunity of the match as Harrogate winger Harry Jukes made a dazzling break but saw his pass intercepted by his opposite man, Scott Turner.

The home wing sprinted for the ‘Gate try-line but was overtaken and tackled by Luke White just short of the whitewash.

As half-time approached, a Danny Matthews break forced the home defence to go offside and, from the subsequent penalty, replacement Evan Woodworth drove over for his maiden 1st XV try and a 10-0 advantage.

There was still more to come before the interval and from Morely’s re-start, Harrogate won turnover ball in their own half and Harry Barnard scorched through the hosts’ rearguard for a try converted by White for 17-0.

Both sides made tactical changes in the second half with Doherty bringing on Paddy Hebblethwaite at scrum-half with Matthews moving to stand-off.

It was Morley, however, who made the most telling switch by moving Dante Van der Merwe from full-back to fly-half in place of veteran stalwart Mark Chester.

This led to the home attacks carrying more menace, though they never seriously threatened to breach Harrogate’s defence.

The visiting front five were consistently in control and, in the final move of the match, ‘gate added to their tally to secure a fourth try and a bonus point.

Quick line-out ball was spread to the right wing where Barnard again showed his strength and speed to burst through the cover and pass to Olli Rosillo who side-stepped his way through for a converted touchdown.