Old boy condemns Harrogate to another loss

Action from Harrogate RUFC's home defeat to Sheffield Tigers. Picture: Richard Bown
Action from Harrogate RUFC's home defeat to Sheffield Tigers. Picture: Richard Bown

Winless Harrogate RUFC fell to a disappointing 24-17 defeat to Sheffield Tigers at Rudding Lane.

Gate held their own for much of the contest but were made to pay by former winger Jamie Broadley whose two tries condemned his old side to their fifth successive defeat in National League Two North.

A well-earned penalty try and Jonny Coser’s close-range effort saw them go to the break at 14-14; after which the game became highly attritional, played in wet conditions to which Sheffield simply adapted better.

David Doherty’s side conceded 110 points in their first four games and the home support were left fearing the worst when Sheffield took the lead after not much more than two minutes.

The ball went quickly along the line and Harrogate’s backs couldn’t drift over quickly enough, leaving an overlap for Angus Bowyer on the right wing who stepped inside his man to make it 5-0. Tom Outram added the extras.

The hosts struggled to find a foothold in the loose early on- lacking quick ball, failing to choose challenging lines and falling foul of opposing full-back Peter Swatkins’ powerful line breaks.

Gate’s line-out has excelled despite poor results this campaign, and it is a tool they feel comfortable in deploying. A good grubber kick from Richard Davies forced Sheffield back and an assertive scrum on the five-metre line saw them awarded to a penalty try, which Charlie Morgan kicked to level terms at 7-7.

This was Harrogate’s best spell in the game, signposted by Coser’s tenacious work and Willem Enslin’s expert coaxing of the pack from number eight.

Finding themselves on the right side of a couple of decisions at the breakdown allowed them to set up another line-out in Sheffield’s 22. After several pick and drives, Coser whipped the ball from the base of the ruck and dotted down to the right side of the posts.

The game looked to be meandering towards half-time but visiting openside Frank Tufail-Smith made 30 yards after wriggling out of a tackle.

With at least a penalty in the bank, Broadley got his first - with no small slice of fortune as John Buchanan’s speculative offload nicked off Richard Davies’ shoulder and fell for the Gate old boy just five yards out.

Morgan, on the tee for Harrogate, had two penalty shots at goal after the 40 minute mark but neither found their target to leave the game at 14-14.

A heavy spate of rain set in at the start of a second half which Sheffield begun better, although given his chance again Outram may not have attempted a speculative drop-kick from a promising position.

Inevitably in the wet, the inaccuracies of which director of rugby Doherty has complained of late crept into the play of the hosts. The excellent Danny Matthews sneaked around a ruck and made good ground but his low pass was knocked on.

Bowyer should have given Sheffield the lead but he also fumbled Will Bennett’s pass that looked to have left the line at his mercy.

When the Harrogate pack won yet another penalty for the hosts, it proved enough to see them claim the ascendancy as Morgan’s kick put them three points ahead at 17-14 with 15 minutes remaining.

Broadley, who lit up Rudding Lane in his two-year stay that ended in 2011, then provided the moment of class to settle the fixture.

Having been slipped through, he issued a firm grubber kick that looked like it was going dead; everyone except Broadley gave up on it but he slid in to touch down what would be a match-winning score.

A late penalty from Outram made it 24-17 as Harrogate were too run down to offer anything in the way of a comeback. A gruelling second half, full of scrummaging, had ground their forwards into submission.

At the end of last season, Harrogate beat Sheffield 38-3 to win the Yorkshire Cup- a result which cannot fail to act as a reminder of the speed at which a rebuilding phase has taken hold at Rudding Lane.

Gate go in search of their first win of the season at the sixth attempt against Stourbridge next time out.

Harrogate RUFC: Morgan, Rosillo, Doherty, Edwards, Barnard, Davies, Matthews; Ward, Maycock, Dennis, J Brady, S Brady, Harvey, Coser, Enslin.

Replacements: Yorke, Peace, Smith, Nesbitt, Ridell