Squad depth key for Harrogate RUFC chief as winning streak is extended
Dave Doherty cited strength-in-depth as an important factor after his Harrogate RUFC side extended their perfect start to the season by beating Alnwick at the Stratstone Stadium.
Saturday’s 40-16 triumph was the Aces’ sixth in as many games in 2019/20 and their 19th in succession, the result leaving them second in the North Premier standings.
And although they cruised to victory in the end, ‘Gate had to do so with a much-changed match-day squad.
“We had to make four enforced changes and then lost Luke Edwards to a hamstring injury during the game, but the boys who came into the team and off the bench did very well,” said director of rugby Doherty.
“They all fitted in seemlessly and that shows the strength -in-depth within the club.
“Our replacements have made a big impact in a number of tight games already this season and this has proved the difference on some occasions.
“Harry Yates has come through the Colts and got another chance in the 1st XV on Saturday and really impressed me.
“Jack Rigby also came on for his debut and was fantastic. It’s really pleasing to see these boys progressing and this kind of competition for places means that everybody knows that they will have to keep performing if they want to keep hold of their shirts.
“That kind of competition for places is what you need if you want to try and win a league.”
‘Gate took an early lead in Saturday’s contest, continuous pressure eventually telling when Doherty came into the line from full-back to take a perfectly-weighted inside pass and score a try that was converted by Sam Fox for 7-0.
Alnwick were still very much in the game at this stage and Harrogate’s defence was fully tested for a period.
Joe Weddle’s touchdown got the visitors back on terms, though this was as good as it was to get for the Northumberland outfit.
From a driving maul, Tim Heaton finished off to put ‘Gate back ahead before a powerful midfield burst from second row Brandon Hannam set up the home team’s next converted score.
Another driving maul was just too much for the Alnwick defence and Sam Brady powered over to make it 19-7 at the interval.
From the re-start, the ball was quickly spread left and Mason Knowles made a searing 30-metre break to register a stunnning individual try.
A couple of Alnwick penalties trimmed the deficit to 26-13, though Doherty’s men went over again as Tom Driscoll, with great support from Andy Boyde and Dom Musetti, made it over the whitewash.
Alnwick landed another penalty to take the score to 33-16 before Heaton burst through the away defence, Fox carrying on a move that was eventually finished off by Yates.
Fox then booted over another fine touchline conversion to round things off at 40-16.
Next up for 'Gate is a trip to Wirral on Saturday, with Doherty and his men looking to avenge a 3-0 defeat in last season's corresponding fixture.