Trio of ‘cup finals’ to decide struggling Harrogate’s fate

Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography
Harrogate RUFC director of rugby Dave Doherty. Picture: Caught Light Photography

Harrogate RUFC have three “cup finals” left to play this season as they battle to preserve their National Two North status.

The Rudding Lane outfit sit just one place and one point above the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s visit to bottom-of-the-table Preston Grasshoppers, a fixture that has become a must-win affair.

And with his team’s season hanging in the balance, director of rugby Dave Doherty has backed his players to deliver out on the field.

“Our three remaining fixtures are huge, huge games,” he said.

“They are all cup finals and we are targeting three victories.

“The players are determined to stay in this division and I have every confidence in them.

“After losing our first six league matches, if someone had offered me this situation where our fate is in our own hands with three games left to play, I would definitely have taken it.”

Doherty’s side spent the first half of 2016/17 mired in the bottom three following a tough start to the campaign, but four wins in five at the turn of the calendar year, they looked to have lifted them clear of the relegation dogfight.

Five defeats from their last five games, combined with an upturn in fortunes for rivals Sheffield Tigers and Scunthorpe have however plunged them back into trouble heading into the business end of the season.

“We’ve had a run of very tough matches in recent weeks, but I see all of our remaining games as being winnable,” Doherty added.

“I think that some of the sides below us in the table can probably smell blood and we know that they are breathing down our necks.

“There is a bit of pressure on us now, but we go to Preston confident that we have what it takes to get a result.

“We had a tough game against Caldy, the best side in the division last time out, and we re-grouped in the dressing room after full-time and spoke about what we need to do going forwards.

“The spirit among this group of players is incredible and we also have a great deal of ability in our ranks, these are the reasons why I think we’ll be okay going into these last three fixtures.”

Following this weekend’s trip to Preston, Harrogate host local rivals Otley on April 22, before rounding 2016/17 off with a trip to Hinckley on April 29.