Harrogate RUFC failed to recover from conceding a brace of early tries as they fell to a fifth straight National Two North defeat, at the hands of league leaders Caldy.
Their slow start to Saturday’s clash at Rudding Lane put them on the back foot for the rest of the game but they did play well in patches and Phil Wickham’s late touchdown will have offered some consolation.
Two yellow cards at the end of the first half left Dave Doherty’s side down to 13 men for the start of the second period, and despite being 26-3 behind at the time, a spirited display saw them actually dominate this period of the match.
It was a pair of early scores from Caldy’s Josh Dickson that did the damage, however, the first of which arrived in the 14th minute when Harrogate were pushed off their own scrum, allowing the visiting number eight to dive over the line.
A period of attacking home play followed and, when Caldy went offside, Sam Fox’s penalty made the score 7-3.
Minutes later, the visitors won a turnover in midfield and the ball was recycled to Dickson who scored his second converted try.
More Caldy attacks followed which were well initially contained by Harrogate, but the away side won another midfield turnover and centre Jack Lavin sprinted 40 yards to touch down for 19-3.
In the dying moments of the half, home prop Will Dennis was yellow-carded for a technical offence and the visitors opted for a scrum from the penalty.
Number eight Tim Heaton was then sin-binned at the resulting scrum and a converted penalty try for Caldy ended the half at 26-3.
From the re-start, Harrogate’s 13 men attacked and consistently stretched title-chasing Caldy’s defence.
A high tackle from a visiting player was penalised, but the expected yellow card wasn’t awarded and during this period, a deliberate Caldy knock-on also went unpunished.
Having weathered the home storm somewhat, a well-constructed driving maul led to the away team’s next try with second row Martin Gerrard squeezing over the line and ending any Harrogate hopes of a second-half comeback.
Former England sevens winger Nick Royle scored Caldy’s final try after chipping through and outstripping the covering defence.
Despite being 3-38 down, Harrogate refused to capitulate. Paddy Hebblethwaite had replaced Phil Wickham at scrum half and made an immediate impact.
However an injury to stand-off Fox led to by Wickham returning to the fray to take his place and showing some neat touches.
A searing Luke Edwards break in the closing stages was halted just short of the Caldy line, but good support saw the ball transferred to Wickham whose try was converted by Doherty to round things off at 38-10.
Defeat leaves Harrogate just a point clear of the National Two North drop zone following Sheffield Tigers’ home success over Hinckley.
They return to action on Saturday when they visit bottom side Preston Grasshoppers in what has become a must-win encounter.