‘Gate set for derby showdown with rivals Ilkley

Harrogate RUFC renew hostilities with derby rivals Ilkley on Saturday. Picture: Richard Bown
Harrogate RUFC renew hostilities with derby rivals Ilkley on Saturday. Picture: Richard Bown

Harrogate RUFC tackle derby rivals Ilkley at the Stratstone Stadium on Saturday, looking to keep their National Three North promotion hopes alive.

Their ambitions of securing an immediate return to National Two North were dented at the weekend, despite the Aces not setting foot on a pitch.

‘Gate’s scheduled home clash with rock-bottom Pocklington fell foul of the weather, but elsewhere, Hull won 42-12 at Kirkby Lonsdale, leapfrogging the Rudding Lane outfit into second place in the table.

Finishing in the runners-up spot would earn Dave Doherty’s side a promotion play-off against the second best team in the Midlands Premier, but Hull now sit four points ahead of them.

“Kirkby had a couple of big players missing, but fair play to Hull, they went to a really tough place and came away with a bonus-point win,” Doherty said.

“Obviously we would love to have our fate in own hands in terms of the play-off place, but we’re comfortable being in a position where we have to try and chase Hull down.

“They’ve got some difficult away games to come, so we just need to focus on trying to get bonus points from our five remaining fixtures, starting with Ilkley on Saturday.”

‘Gate head into this weekend’s clash missing a number of key players, but Doherty is still confident that his side will be capable of doing the business in front of what should be a big crowd.

“Guy Coser is still not quite 100 per cent after he was knocked out against Rossendale, while Keane Naylor and Andrew Lawson will be missing in the backs, but with 50 players training every week and such a strong second team, we will be okay,” the Aces’ director of rugby added.

“Ilkley had a lot of players missing last time we played them, so I don’t think you can read too much into that result. They’re a good side with a good coach, but if we can win the battle at the breakdown then I’m confident we can win the game.

“There’s a big rivalry with them and there’s always a bit of needle. League position and form go out the window in derby matches, so we know we’re in for a real test, but it should be an exciting spectacle.”

Prior to the game, Harrogate’s colts team will make the short journey to the Army Foundation College in Penny Pot Lane to tackle an Army side in the inaugural John Finnegan memorial match.

Much-loved former club president ‘Finners’, as he was affectionately known, passed away last year aged 71. The fixture is to become an annual event and kick-off is at 11am.