'There's no better way to win' - Harrogate RUFC chief delighted by last-gasp try in victory at Blaydon RFC
With just seconds of Saturday's North Premier clash at Blaydon remaining, Harrogate RUFC's title hopes looked to be all but over.
Trailing 8-7 deep into stoppage-time, Dave Doherty’s team appeared destined for a third defeat in their last five matches, one which would have left them 17 points behind leaders Billingham and in need of a miracle.
Then, something rather special happened.
“I’d just had a really good feeling all the way through the game,” Doherty revealed.
“It was a brilliant spectacle, a great match between two excellent, very evenly-matches sides, and even though we were behind heading into the final minutes, I still felt confident.”
In what was the last play of the contest, a succcession of Harrogate attacks inside the Blaydon half were efficiently dealt with by the home defence, and it seemed only a matter of time before referee Michael Hurdley blew the final whistle.
The Aces did however manage to keep both the ball and their title ambitions alive, switching play right where centre Mason Knowles ran a great line to burst through a gap in midfield before outpacing the cover to touchdown and win the game with a fine solo effort in the 10th minute of added time.
“There’s no better way to win. It doesn’t get any better,” Doherty said.
“It was the perfect end, from our point of view, to what was a great game of rugby.
“Mason Knowles is another really young guy in what is an extremely youthful back-line and I’m delighted with his overall performance and obviously that final contribution.
“It was an excellent finish from a player who is developing very nicely.”
‘Gate got off to a positive start on Tyneside, some early forwards pressure leading to a try for prop Connor Ward, converted by the boot of Sam Fox.
An Alex Clark touchdown trimmed the gap to 7-5, before Ryan Foreman’s panlty edged Blaydon ahead before half-time.
“Fair play to Blaydon for how they performed, it was such a close game and could have gone either way, but I am just delighted for our boys.
“The margins are really fine when you play the likes of Billingham and Blaydon, and on this occasion we’ve come out on the right side.
“We’ve lost to Billingham and Carlisle in recent weeks, but you can learn a lot in defeat and this is what we’ve done. That was evident in Saturday’s performance.
“That was one of the most pleasing things, to see such a young group learning and understanding where they’d gone wrong and putting it right.
“The ability to do that is the kind of thing that gives you a chance of winning a title or getting promoted.”
Victory lifts ‘Gate up one position to third in the North Premier standings ahead of Saturday’s home meeting with 12th-placed Morpeth.