Harrogate RUFC’s three-match winning run came to an end when they went down 28-15 at Leicester Lions in National Two North.
In an enthrallingly close match, a Sam Fox injury-time penalty seemed to have salvaged a losing bonus point for the men from Rudding Lane.
However, from the re-start, a fumble cost them possession and was snapped up by Lions hooker Oli Taylor for an opportunistic 30-metre converted try.
Defeat, coupled with victory for Luctonians over Sedgley Park, sees Harrogate drop one place to 12th in the league standings, while Sheffield Tigers’ triumph over Wharfedale ensures that things remain extremely tight at the foot of the table.
“The game was much closer than the scoreline suggests,” director of rugby Dave Doherty reflected.
“At 14-12 we were camped on their line, they stole possession, kicked downfield and got the bounce of the ball, which led to the decisive try.
“There wasn’t a lot in it. We went to Leicester believing that we could make it four wins in a row and we weren’t a million miles away from doing that.
“The margins are fine. The ball has bounced for them on a couple of occasions, but at the same time we were guilty of a few inaccuracies and two missed tackles have led to them scoring two tries.
“This game shows that there is still plenty for us to work on as we look to keep improving, but the exciting thing about this young group of players is that they have just got better and better as the season has gone on, which is really positive for the club.”
Hosts Leicester’s backs went into overdrive from the start of Saturday’s encounter and full-back Ian Smith sidestepped his way through for an early try, converted by Elliot Bale.
Harrogate responded well and Dave Doherty ran strongly from deep. He was well supported by Keane Naylor who took the scoring pass to touch down for 7-5.
At this stage of the game, the Cockerels were dominating the scrums and also stole three successive Lions lines-out. This possession won them three penalty opportunities, but they were unable to add points to their tally.
The Lions then attacked from a defensive turnover and good backs play was again finished by another Smith sidestep, giving his team a 14-5 advantage. Harrogate’s forwards continued to dominate, but despite several near misses, the Leicester defence held out to take their lead into the interval.
The same pattern continued after the break, and Naylor was again in support of a backs move to outstrip the home defence for a converted try.
This brought the visitors to within two points, and they could have got their noses in front when Steve Maycock, Harrogate’s replacement hooker took a good offload from short line-out ball but got white line fever and knocked on.
A good Lions clearance then bounced kindly for them and they launched a counter-attack.
Skilful handling in the backs put winger Benji Marfo clear for a well-taken try and the home team had some daylight again at 21-12.
Then came the match’s final dramas with the Harrogate penalty and Taylor’s immediate response that secured Leicester the bonus point.