Pythons undone by Northallerton despite fine first-half showing

Joe Bentham, centre, prepares to send in Ollie Wheatley to register Harrogate Pythons' opening try against Northallerton
Joe Bentham, centre, prepares to send in Ollie Wheatley to register Harrogate Pythons' opening try against Northallerton

Harrogate Pythons suffered a narrow defeat at high-flying Northallerton in Yorkshire Three, despite scoring four tries in the first half.

They got off to a flying start with a touchdown after just 60 seconds, Ivan Drane taking a quick tap and linking with Hugh Tatlow whose looping pass put Joe Bentham away.

Bentham drew the last North defender in the line and put Ollie Wheatley over in the corner for a 5-0 lead.

Jack Stubbs then secured possession for the Pythons from a line-out, Drane went for the line by the posts and managed to offload to the supporting Max Sharp who crashed over to double his side’s advantage.

The hosts responded when scrum ball was passed along their back line and their outside centre sliced through the Harrogate defence before drawing full-back Andy Quirk and putting his winger in for an easy touchdown.

The Pythons responded almost immediately as North kicked the ball deep to Pickard who embarked on a storming run.

The ball was recycled quickly to Drane who went for the line and, despite a desperate last-ditch tackle, managed to roll over the whitewash for 15-7.

North began to utilise their potent rolling maul as the half wore on and put their visitors under increasing pressure.

They were intially unable to break through, but after play briefly switched to the other end of the field, North’s forwards came back and successfully rumbled over.

Just before half-time, the Pythons secured a bonus point with their fourth try of the afternoon.

Gareth Drane took a quick tap from a penalty and passed to Bentham who went for the line and linked with Sharp who applied the finishing touch for 20-14.

With North playing down a considerable slope in the second period their pack began to take control and kept the ball tight.

The Harrogate defence remained resolute despite a 20-minute onslaught until, somewhat inevitably, the home forwards formed a driving maul which allowed them to touchdown and narrow the gap to a single point at 20-19 on the hour-mark.

The hosts then kicked a penalty to move ahead for the first time in the game in the 68th minute and another try followed soon afterwards.

With time running out and the scoreline reading 29-20 in favour of North, the Pythons were up against it.

Despite having lost a number of players to injury, the visitors kept going and, from another quick tap, Ivan Drane sent a perfectly-weighted kick through for Matt Halpin to follow up and touch down, making the score 29-25 with four minutes remaining.

The Pythons made one last bid to snatch the points from the last play of the afternoon when Halpin sent Sharp away down the wing, but North recovered to force the ball into touch, ending the game.