National Two North rugby: Harrogate 19 Hull 18

hsb  Harrogate v Luctonians. Jake Brady  (140104M1b)
hsb Harrogate v Luctonians. Jake Brady (140104M1b)

Harrogate won their Yorkshire derby with Hull on Saturday but were hanging on by the fingernails at the whistle as the game finished 19-18.

Mike Aspinall’s men delivered a classy first half and led 14-0 at the break, but a nuggety Hull side clawed back 18 points to Harrogate’s five in the second stanza to make it an uncomfortable finish for the Claro Road faithful.

Hull fly half James Cameron directed his kick on to the post, and had it not bounced off, the visitors would have won the contest

“It’s a good win for us,” said Aspinall.

“It was one of those games where we were up against a big heavy pack, and given the conditions tries and points were going to be hard to come by.

“But I thought we played some really good rugby in the first half, we perhaps lost our way somewhat in the second.

“We lost momentum and that’s something we need to examine, how we go about getting it back once we’ve lost it.

“Hull would have fancied their chances here today. They’ve got in several championship players on loan and would have seen the conditions here and felt confident.

“I think we can be happy with what we’ve got from the game. We just need to build on it.

“Unfortunately we’ll probably lose Nathan Smith to a ban now as he’s picked up a fourth yellow card.

“Injury-wise we’ve still got quite a few to come back, but hopefully by the end of February we should have Steve Maycock, Andy Boyde back, so the future’s bright.”

Hull are down in the bottom four of National Two and their determination to do something about their precarious position was immediately evident.

They were quickly out of the blocks, and awarded an early penalty after Harrogate failed to roll away in the tackle.

An efficient lineout later and Hull were pushing hard, recyling well and exploring gaps on either wing but Harrogate’s defence held firm.

Seven minute later and Harrogate hadn’t been out of their own 22, but a good kick from fly half Callum Irvine released the bottleneck of pressure.

Through sturdy drives from skipper Jake Brady,no 8 Tim Heaton and flanker Nathan Smith, Harrogate began to apply pressure of their own, with their backs feeding off the ground gained, although the heavy pitch meant their usual running game wasn’t always possible.

Quarter of an hour in, the match remained scoreless.

Fly half Joe Rowntree had the chance to open Gate’s account from an attack which began deep in their own 22, but he was tackled just before the line.

From the lineout, Harrogate worked the driving maul to impressive effect, and 28 minutes in, finally got their try.

Heaton made some hard yard before shipping the ball to centre Kyle Dench, and his clever inside pass put winger Steve Parsons through under the posts.

Rowntree converted, and Gate were finally off the blocks.

And it got better, when from a break by Parsons, the ball went wide and found Wilson, who showed a remarkable turn of pace to chip ahead, outsprint the cover and reclaim the ball.

He was eventually tackled but his pass to the supporting Sam Bottomley allowed the centre to fizz over by the corner flag.

Rowntree’s second conversion was succesful and Gate were 14-0 in front with 33 minutes on the clock.

They took the score into half-time, and with Hull opting to make two changes, Harrogate looked poised to build on their advantage.

Minutes into the second half, Hull had a chance to claw back some points with a penalty given for a Harrogate offside during a Hull lineout.

Fly half James Cameron had little trouble with his kick, to make it 14-3.

Harrogate were so close to a third try when Irvine’s grubber kick was picked up by Parsons on the wing, but a trip by Hull full back Greg Lund ended the threat and the ball was accidentally kicked into touch by a Harrogate foot.

But their third touchdown of the day arrived when Harrogate were awarded a free kick, and after Bottomley was brought down yards from the line, hooker Aarin Yorke muscled over to the left of the posts.

Rowntree’s conversion hit the posts and bounced off, but the 19-3 lead looked better.

Unfortunately, Harrogate were about to go down to 14 men, as flanker Smith was sent to the bin.

Proceedings were halfted after Hull centre Gary Law required treatment, but Hull performed a thorough examination of Harrogate’s defence shortly after play was restarted, looking to exploit the extra man through a series of attacks.

The defence could only hold so long and eventually, Hull got their try, as replacement second row Joseph Stafford barged over, with Cameron converting.

Things were about to get even more interesting when Hull were gifted a penalty by Harrogate failure to roll away in the tackle, Cameron kicking with ease to make it 19-13.

Harrogate were now in danger, and Hull had booted upfield.

Irvine ran to collect but lost the ball in the tackle, and when it was picked up in an offside position Hull were gifted another penalty.

Cameron kicked for touch as Hull opted for the lineout, clearly fancying their chances of nicking a victory.

And with yet another attack, they grabbed the try when Stafford scrabbled over for his second of the afternoon to put Hull within two points of victory.

The Claro Road support was grimly praying for divine intervention by now, and it arrived during the conversion when Cameron’s kick bounced off the upright.

Desperately needing to keep their visitors pegged in their own half, Harrogate fought to protect their wafer-thin lead and the defence was impressive, holding firm until the whistle finally sounded.

Harrogate: Joe Rowntree, Steve Parsons, Kyle Dench, Sam Bottomley, Harry Parrish (Lewis Minikin HT), Callum Irvine, Phil Wickham (Danny Matthews 55); DanMetcalfe, Aarin Yorke, Jimmy Browne (Dom Musetti 70), Jake Brady, Chris Wilson (Rob Johnson 70), Bob Adair (Noel Minikin), Nathan Smith, Tim Heaton.

Hull: Gregory Lound, Ben Thoy; Alex Heard, Gary Law, Dom A Lespierre (Paul Eti-Slater 34), James Cameron, William Haddow, Harrison Lloyd , William Kay, Mike Dias (Mike Jobling 37), Chris Murphy, Phil J Murphy (Joseph Stafford 55), Max Argyle, Ben Sullivan, Oliver Cook; Reps, Josh Lamping, Santiago G Socino.