'We weren't good enough': Harrogate RUFC knocked off top-spot by Macclesfield RUFC
Dave Doherty said his Harrogate RUFC side could have no complaints after being knocked off the top of the North Premier by title rivals Macclesfield.
The Aces went into Saturday's crunch clash four points clear at the summit, but a 35-14 defeat in Cheshire saw their hosts move into pole position.
"Macclesfield deserved their win, fair play to them," 'Gate director of rugby Doherty reflected.
"We dropped a few balls and we just weren't good enough. You can't go away from home and play against a side as good as they are and allow them so much time on the ball.
"I was pretty disappointed with the way we started the game. We knew that we had to be disciplined and stay low in the collisions against physically dominant opposition, but unfortunately, we didn't do either of these things.
"The two early tries that we conceded were too easy for Macclesfield and that left some of the boys shell-shocked.
"It took us proably 10 or 15 minutes to regain our composure, and although we went on to enjoy a period in the game where we played some really good rugby, it wasn't enough."
Saturday's defeat was just Harrogate's third of the season and first in seven outings, but leaves them second in the table by virtue of having secured less four-try bonus points than Macclesfield.
And while the destiny of the title is now in the Blues' hands, Doherty feels that the race for top spot is still wide open.
"I don't think that losing to Macclesfield is a massive deal for us," he added.
"I see it as a missed opportunity to put some distance between ourselves and some of the other teams who are up there, but the reality is that, on this occasion, we just weren't good enough to be able to do that.
"There is still a long way to go, however. Blaydon, Billingham and even Sandal are all good enough to go on and win the title, but we just have to focus on the things that we can control.
"We try not to get too carried away after a win or too down after a loss, so we'll look to learn from this disappointment, put it behind us and go again against Blackburn this weekend.
"Our ambition for this season is still to finish as champions, but we must learn from the things that went wrong for us on Saturday if we want to achieve that."
Harrogate found themselves on the back foot early on at Macclesfield and some unrelenting pressure led to tries for home number eight Daffyd Rees and then centre Harry Oliver, both of which were converted by Will Davies.
Trailing 14-0 with just 10 minutes on the clock left the visitors with a mountain to climb.
Having already broken clear once, only to be stopped in his tracks by an incorrect 'foot-in-touch' decision, Harry Jukes eventually got 'Gate back into the contest when he collected Harry Yates' pass and ran in from 40 metres out.
Sam Fox's conversion halved the deficit and, having played into a strong head-wind during the opening period, going in 14-7 down at the break wouldn't have represented too bad an effort from Doherty's men.
Unfortunately for them, Macclesfield weren't finished yet, and winger Myles Hall bagged his side's third touchdown of the afternoon shortly before half-time to make it 21-7.
From the start of the second half, 'Gate mounted attack after attack, but the hosts countered and took play up to the away line.
A defensive knock-on led to a Macclesfield attacking scrum and Jordan Simpson powered over to score a bonus-point-winning try.
The Aces continued to compete strongly, though the home defence managed to repel their advances until a succession of attacking scrums led to a driving maul from which Sam Brady crashed over the whitewash.
That was to be as good as it got for 'Gate, however, as Macclesfield second row Josh Redfearn scored following a quickly-taken line-out to end any hopes of a comeback.