We just need to keep winning, says Dave Doherty as Harrogate RUFC trim gap at the top

The message from Harrogate RUFC's director of rugby Dave Doherty is a simple one - just keep winning, and the North Premier title will be theirs.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 12:06 pm
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 12:07 pm
Danny Matthews slides over to register Harrogate RUFC's first try during their victory over Sandal. Picture: Richard Bown

Easier said than done, perhaps, however Saturday’s hard-earned 25-15 victory over in-form Sandal moved the Rudding Lane outfit to within one point of top spot.

League leaders Billingham, well clear at the summit at the turn of the year, suffered a second successive defeat of 2020 when they were shocked on home turf by Rossendale.

Thus, ‘Gate now know that realising their ambition of promotion to back to National Two is within their own control.

“We’re just one point behind at the top now and we feel like our destiny is in our hands, which we’re very pleased about,” Doherty said.

“All we are thinking is that if we keep winning, then we’ll finish top of the division. It’s as simple as that.

“We only need to worry about our own results now, and not what’s happening in other games.

“We’ve got Billingham to play again, and that’s one that we’ve been looking forward to since they beat us at our place. They got the rub of the green on that occasion and we obviously want to put that result right.

“We can’t afford to look too far ahead, however. We’ve got a really tough fixture against Carlisle coming up this weekend, and all our focus is on that game.”

Doherty’s optimism as far as his side’s prospects are concerned was further fuelled by Saturday’s victory over a Sandal team whom he felt were as good as anyone the Aces have faced this term.

“I’m delighted by the result,” the former Wasps and Sales Shark winger added.

“Sandal are the best team we’ve played against so far this season, so as a consequence we really had to up our performance.

“They were about as strong as they could have been. They’ve recruited well, got a few boys back from Huddersfield and really challenged us.

“The conditions were tricky, they were bigger than us and their front-three would hold their own in the division above.

“They took Billingham apart in their previous game and came into Saturday on the back of six wins in a row, so to win that game and stop them from even getting a losing bonus-point really says something.”

An early Doherty penalty handed Harrogate the lead in Saturday’s showdown at the Stratstone Stadium before a Sam Parry counter-attack followed by good work by the forwards led to a try for captain Danny Matthews on his 150th appearance for the Aces.

A second Doherty penalty stretched the lead to 11-0, however Sandal continued to compete.

A promising away attack was then ended by Martin Dodds’ turnover and the hosts countered, Mason Knowles eventually cruising under the posts for a touchdown converted by Doherty.

Trailing 18-0 at the break, Sandal began the second period in determined fashion and opened their account when some skilful play in midfield saw Gary Wood go over for a try that he converted himself.

The same player then kicked a penalty to make it 18-10 before the alarm bells really started to ring for ‘Gate as they lost their own ball at a line-out and Declan Thompson touchded down to narrow the gap at 18-15.

The hosts’ response was however impressive and having wrestled back the momentum, Andy Boyde was in support of a rampaging Dodds break to score what proved to be the final try of the match.

Next up for Doherty and his men is a home clash with 10th-placed Carlisle on Saturday, 2.15pm kick-off.