Stourbridge 28-29 Harrogate: Gate strike back to finish joint-third in National Two North
Harrogate rugby club mounted a huge come back to earn a share of third place at the end of their National Two North campaign.
At half time, Stourbridge were 21-7 ahead but the Harrogate players never lost their focus and charged back to take the tie 29-28.
Powerful running from Sam Brady and great ball winning from Jonny Coser were at the heart of Harrogate’s early attacks.
However, Stourbridge also showed great attacking qualities and, after an even opening 20 minutes, Tatenda Mukarati, their outstanding flanker powered through to score. Gary Dipple’s conversion made it 7-0.
A trademark Callum Irvine break created Harrogate’s quick response.
The ball passed through several pairs of hands till James Morland came into the line from deep to make the extra man and score.
Irvine’s touchline conversion evened the scores but Stourbridge soon regained the lead.
The powerful Mukarati drew defenders and passed to Nathan Bressington who scored another converted try.
The Harrogate attacking brand of rugby continued but a knock-on from a counter attack led to Mukarati snapping up the loose ball and powering over to make the score 21-7 at the interval.
Early in the second half, Irvine danced through the Stourbridge midfield, made a 30 metres break and delivered a pinpoint scoring pass to Lewis Minikin.
Harrogate’s pack was now starting to gain ascendancy from the dominant front row play of George Stuffins, Aarin Yorke and Ben Reaveley.
The Brady brothers gave strong second row support, Coser repeatedly stole Stourbridge line-out ball and Kerry Wood orchestrated well controlled driving mauls.
Strong running from Willem Enslin continually made big inroads and a desperate high tackle on him led to an Irvine penalty goal reducing the home lead.
Harrogate then went ahead when an irresistible driving maul sucked in the Stourbridge defenders.
Scrum half, Danny Matthews’s pass gave Luke Edwards just enough space to score in the corner and another Irvine touchline conversion made the score 21-22.
Stourbridge now seemed to be running out of steam with their attempted attacks foundering on strong tackling.
Ben Reaveley ended several moves at source and, when they did manage to spread the ball, it was usually a Kyle Dench tackle which ended the move.
A strong Cam Leadley run sparked off Harrogate’s next score.
Sam Bottomley’s direct running carried the move on, the ball came to Irvine and Bottomley scored the bonus point try from Irvine’s beautifully judged chip ahead.
Last ditch Stourbridge attacks eventually led to Stefan Shillingford scoring their fourth try and the consolation of two bonus points
Stourbridge: Jarvis, Bressington, Shillingford, Tuipulotu, Cooksammy, Dipple, Nash, Sturdy, Spencer, George, Hughes, Hurrell, Mukurati, Uzoigwe, Harper. Subs:- Handley, Depper, Page, Murphy, Cullen
Harrogate: L Minikin, Bottomley, Leadley, Morland, Edwards, Irvine, Matthews, Stuffins, Yorke, Reaveley, J Brady, S Brady, Coser, Wood, Enslin. Subs:- Nyemba, Cutino, N Minikin, Dench, Rowntree.
Referee: Neil Chivers (RFU)