Promotion rivals poised for Saturday showdown

Cleckheaton v Harrogate - James Spencer fights on for Harrogate
Cleckheaton v Harrogate - James Spencer fights on for Harrogate

Harrogate lock horns this weekend with Chester in a mouth-watering promotion battle at the top of National Three North (kick-off 2.15pm).

Gate travel to Cheshire aiming to preserve their 100 per cent league record and extend their lead at the top of the table.

Team manager Graham Siswick views this match as their biggest of the season so far.

He is also promising wholesale changes from the side humbled 54-7 at Cleckheaton in the Yorkshire Cup on Saturday.

Siswick said: “Without a doubt, this will be our toughest test so far.

“Chester have had an impressive start to the season, but they have lost one game.

“The result isn’t going to change things now or put someone out of the promotion race, but we will look back at it as a game of significance at the end of the season.”

Gate are two points clear of Chester, having won their first ten games of the season.

Siswick continued: “We are happy to be going there first, and having the home return game to look forward to.

“If we can win it gives us a buffer, so it puts the pressure on Chester to win this weekend.

“We have been preparing since the last league game, we are not expecting anything less that the most difficult game of the season.”

Siswick is confident his side are well rested and prepared for what Chester will throw at them.

He said: “The lads who will play at Chester generally did not play on Saturday.

“We are up against a side who score more points than we do, but we are in a good place physically and mentally at the moment.

“We are quietly confident we can put a good performance together and get a result.”

A young Harrogate side struggled at Cleckheaton, and found themselves 23-0 down at half-time. A brawl after the interval resulted in Ben Innes being red carded, ending Harrogate’s hopes.

Aarin Yorke made his return for Gate, and broke to allow Ali Chalmers to score a try, converted by Joe Rowntree.

Of the match, Siswick said: “It was a disappointing game and result, and we were glad to get it out of the way.

“The players we expected to show up on Saturday did, so there is competition for places on the bench.”

Harrogate should be at full strength for the clash.

Meantime, off the pitch, Harrogate confirmed this week that they and development partners Crest Nicholson have submitted planning applications for the proposed relocation to Rudding Lane, and housing at Claro Road. Both applications hinge heavily on the success of other, but Harrogate hope if permission is granted for both schemes, rugby will begin at Rudding Lane 2014-2015 season.

Chairman James Smithies said: “We’re pleased to have found a new location that has received support and that will enable the club to provide a facility fit for purpose, including seven pitches for playing and training and a clubhouse. This commitment to the Harrogate community makes the game of rugby available to all.”

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