Harrogate RUFC lost a game that they should have won when they slipped to a 22-15 home defeat to Tynedale in National Two North.
The Cockerels opened up a 10-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes and were also 15-7 in front early in the second period, but appeared to run out of steam as the visitors finished strongly to snatch victory.
Dave Doherty’s side were quickly into their stride, and looked a threat from the word go.
They chose to kick to the corner rather than take what looked an easy three points on five minutes and although their subsequent play came to nothing, they came again before winning another penalty just moments later.
On this occasion, Gate opted for the points and Doherty made no mistake with his strike at the posts.
The home side were well on top by this point and their advantage was increased when the Tynesiders again fell foul of referee Mr Harris and Doherty punted deep into away territory.
From the resulting line-out, Gate’s forwards kept the ball, sucking in more and more defenders until the opportunity arose for scrum-half Phil Wickham to dart around the blind side.
His burst took him to within five metres of the whitewash where he found Doherty arriving at pace on the perfect line to apply the finish in trademark style.
Doherty then added the extras himself to open up a 10-point gap.
The opening quarter of an hour had been almost all Harrogate, but by the midway point of the half, Tynedale had begun to fight their way back into the contest, possibly aided by the fact that the Cockerels lost the services of influential lock Sam Brady to a head injury.
The visitors went through phase after phase as they progressed downfield towards the home tryline.
Following a couple of penalties, both of which were kicked into touch, they were rewarded for a sustained period of pressure when Graeme Dunn managed to touch down.
Full-back Ash Smith knocked over the conversion to reduce the deficit at 10-7.
The hosts were soon back on the offensive, however, and Tim Heaton ran through a couple of tackles before eventually being brought to ground just short of the line.
The ball was recycled and Gate got closer still, only to be penalised at the breakdown, allowing Tynedale to clear their lines.
The visitors should have pulled level when Smith sliced a routine penalty wide of the upright and Doherty’s troops went into the interval with their slender advantage still intact.
With the game finely poised, making a strong start to the second period was imperative, and although it was the Tynesiders who pressed initially, Gate then registered the first points following the resumption.
Noel Minkin won a great turnover in midfield and the ball found its way into the hands of Doherty close to the right-hand touchline.
Once again displaying the finishing prowess that made him a regular try-scorer at the very top of the domestic game, Gate’s fly-half side-stepped his man with ease some 60 yards out, then showed searing pace as he accelerated away from the cover and across the whitewash.
Doherty was narrowly off target with his conversion attempt, but with a 15-7 lead and their tails up, the Cockerels looked well-placed to go on and win the game.
Tynedale again came back at their hosts, however, and as the first signs of fatigue among the Gate ranks began to show, they began to give away penalties.
From one such offside offence, Smith made them pay as he sent over a penalty for 15-10 at the midway point of the second half.
Aided by more impressive ball retention, the visitors then ground their way deep into Gate territory and battered away at the try-line.
The home defence did well to hold out initially, but it looked inevitable that they would eventually be breached and this proved the case when the ball went wide for Smith to apply the finishing touch.
The same player’s well-struck conversion then nudged his side ahead for the first time in the game at 17-15.
Gate needed a reaction, but they looked to have run out of steam, and with the momentum well and truly with Tynedale, they added a third try in the 70th minute through Jonny Mock.
With the conversion missed, Doherty’s men knew that they could still save themselves with a converted try.
A spell of decent possession earned them a penalty in front of the sticks, but Doherty dragged his attempt wide and with that chance went his team’s hopes of staging a late fightback.