Harrogate Pythons’ relegation fears are over after they arrested a poor run of form with a 28-19 victory at home to Knottingley.
Five consecutive defeats had dragged Dan Bird’s side towards the Yorkshire Three trap-door, but a fine display on Saturday means they arenow safe from the drop.
Roared on by a big crowd, who had earlier attended a luncheon with former British Lion John Bentley, the Pythons responded by piling the pressure on their visitors from the off.
With Ian Binns and Hugh Tatlow dominant at the line-out and ‘Gate’s pack on top in the scrum, they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during the opening half.
Some resolute defence from Knottingley restricted the Station View outfit to two penalties that were converted by Ross Fallenstein for a 6-0 lead at the interval, however the second period was a different affair.
The Pythons again began well from the resumption and strong running from Jack Clarkson and Kris Starks created a gap for Max Sharp to break through the visitors’ line.
Quick ball from Andy MacKay then gave Joe Bentham the opportunity to score the first try of the afternoon out wide, Fallenstein adding the extras for a 13-point advantage in the 45th minute.
Shortly afterwards, some good work from the home pack led to a five-metre attacking scrum. The Pythons’ dominance at the set-piece continued and they heaved Knottingley’s front eight back over their own line for Tatlow to dot down, stretching his side’s lead to 18-0.
Another flowing ‘Gate move then saw Liam Kernoghan and Bentham combine well before Sam Gibbs stepped his opposite man to add another try, converted by Fallenstein for 25-0 on the hour-mark.
Knottingley hit back to score a well-worked touchdown of their own, but the Pythons were soon back on the offensive and another Fallenstein penalty made it 28-5 with 10 minutes remaining.
‘Gate took their foot off the gas in the closing stages, allowing their visitors to grab two more tries, but the damage had already been done.
Bird’s men have three fixtures remaining this season, starting with a home clash with Leeds Modernians on Saturday.