National Two North: Harrogate ‘comfortable’ with Otley home tie

Harry Parrish in action on Saturday (David Aspinal)
Harry Parrish in action on Saturday (David Aspinal)

A third place finish would make Harrogate ecstatic should they pip Sedgley Park and Caldy, according to director of rugby Mike Aspinall.

The Cockerels have returned to form in the last four weeks to reignite their ambition of hitting their seasonal goal and finishing in the top three.

Asplinall’s men became only the third National Two North side to take victory in Leicester on Saturday with a dominant performance to overcome Leicester Lions 30-20.

That bonus point win put them within two points of third-placed Caldy, with two very winnable fixtures remaining.

“In our minds, third place was a really stretching goal to get near,” said Aspinall. “To have that still a possibility means the guys are really motivated.

“If we get that third spot down at Stourbridge, people will be excused for thinking we have won the league. It would mean a lot for this group of players.”

“If we get that third spot down at Stourbridge, people will be excused for thinking we have won the league.

Mike Aspinall

Struggling Luctonians are next in Harrogate’s way, with the game taking place at Otley’s Cross Green ground due to the complications with the move to Rudding Lane.

Chris Wilson could get a first start since returning from injury but powerhouse Willem Enslin is away.

The Herefordshire outfit pushed Harrogate close earlier in the season, before Harrogate prevailed by five points.

“It was by no means easy. They have had some good results of late and they are trying to escape the relegation dog-fight,” said Aspinall.

On playing at Otley, he added: “We are not uncomfortable there. It’s obviously not ideal but the boys are quite enjoying the fact that we have won the last couple of games there.”

With a solid scrummaging platform throughout the game, Harrogate played some breathtakingly attractive rugby to outscore Leicester by five tries to three.

Callum Irvine’s penalty kick opened the scoring before Gate’s early pressure told. Harry Parrish broke initially before Cam Leadley had just enough space to power over for the opening try. The next try was created by Harrogate’s forward dominance in a succession of driving mauls before Parrish streaked through for a fine try.

A Lions penalty was soon countered by Leadley second try just before the interval.

Harrogate had the wind advantage in the second half but failed to make the most of it and Leicester came more into the game. The Lions won a strike against the head on a Harrogate scrum and set up a driving maul and Robert Young crashed over to score. Within minutes, Harrogate responded with one of their driving mauls and the outstanding Enslin scored to secure the bonus point.

Kyle Dench and giant Lions forward, Matt Tuckey, then had a midfield tussle which escalated into a brawl and both were dispatched to the sin bin.

Another well controlled driving maul then set Boyde up for Harrogate’s fifth try, converted by Irvine. Leicester ended the match with determined attacks and Young drove over for his second try before Lions hooker Oliver Taylor latched onto a charge down to score a try converted by Jon Boden.