Late try sees Harrogate claim dramatic victory
A last-minute touchdown scored and converted by Dave Doherty saw Harrogate RUFC to a crucial 28-26 win over Preston Grasshoppers.
With an 18-5 half-time lead, the Cockerels seemed to be cruising to a comfortable success over their National Two North relegation rivals.
However, Preston raised their game after the interval and capitalised on a string of home mistakes in the third quarter.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Grasshoppers were 26-18 ahead, but a Harrogate recovery saw them draw level on the stroke of full-time before the extra two points from Doherty’s boot snatched victory by the narrowest of margins.
From the start, Harrogate’s backs went into overdrive and Olli Rosillo came into the line from full-back to register a spectacular opening score.
It was captain Jake Brady’s 200th first team game and he led by example to inspire his teammates to a dominant display during the opening period.
Continued pressure forced the Grasshoppers to concede a number of penalties, and director of rugby Doherty’s successful kick made it 8-0 after 18 minutes. With Harrogate’s pack driving Preston backwards, skipper Brady powered over to score over from a driving maul with the conversion then taking the score to 15-0.
Further Cockerels pressure won them another penalty, which Doherty again landed to to make it 18-0.
The Preston pack then mounted a mini-recovery and set up a driving maul from good line-out ball. Flanker Will Lees tucked in behind to score and reduce the arrears at 18-5.
A Harrogate attack was then ended with a tip-tackle on Doherty but Preston’s Pete Altham was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
Looking revitalised after the half-time oranges, the Grasshoppers went straight onto the offensive from the start of the second period.
Harrogate were penalised for holding and Lewis Allen’s penalty closed the gap at 18-8.
A home defensive clearance was then charged down and Preston’s pressure continued. Guy Coser was sin-binned for a transgression and the resulting penalty made the score 18-11 with Preston were very much in the ascendancy.
Harrogate’s defence seemed to be holding firm until visiting scrum-half Jack Harrison dummied and broke strongly to score a converted try which evened the sores.
Visibly rattled, the hosts’ re-start kick went straight into touch and the Grasshoppers’ pressure continued.
Another Allen penalty put the away team 21-18 ahead before two astute cross-kicks created space for Jacob Browne to score on the right and make it 26-18 with just 10 minutes remaining.
The hosts weren’t finished yet, however, and Jonny Giles won a great turnover on the left wing and a stream of Harrogate attacks followed with centres, Luke Edwards and Keane Naylor a constant threat.
Harrogate’s dominant scrum won another penalty deep in away territory and the successful kick brought them back to within touching distance at 26-21.
Waves of attacks followed from the home side and, in the last move of the match, Doherty drove over to touch down before holding his nerve to kick the winning conversion just moments later.