Although this was another bonus point win for Harrogate Rugby 1st XV, they undoubtedly “got out of jail” towards the end. Before the game, Anthony Rae, the Bees President, said that they had great respect for Harrogate’s backs but they expected the Bees’ tight forwards to give Harrogate a torrid time. He was absolutely right.
An all inclusive dust up took place at the first scrum and resulted in a penalty for Bees. Tom Bills, who gave a faultless goal kicking display all afternoon, duly landed his first 3 points. The next major incident was a visit to the sin bin for Bees’ centre, Richard Tafa. The high tackle, which led to his dismissal, also broke a bone in his hand though he played on till the end and was easily the most dangerous of the home backs. Harrogate kicked for touch from the penalty and set up a driving maul from the ensuing attacking line-out. Tim Heaton drove over for the first Harrogate try.
For the next ten minutes, Harrogate’s backs took advantage of Tafa’s absence and gave a spectacular demonstration of their attacking skills. Callum Irvine orchestrated everything well, Sam Bottomley was a constant threat and the Pete Wackett/Kyle Dench centre combination was again outstanding. However, the next score was another Bills penalty for the Bees after a Harrogate scrum offence. Almost immediately, Harrogate regained the lead when the ball was spun wide for Oli Denton to score in the corner.
Another Bills penalty reduced Harrogate’s lead but Rob Almond then finished a sparkling Harrogate attack by dancing through for a fine try. A more even period of play followed with the home front row in control of the set pieces but Dench then initiated a classy backs move from which Wackett scored to make it 9-20. This proved to be the final score of the half though, for the remaining minutes, the Bees’ scrummaging forced Harrogate to concede a succession of penalties. They opted to scrum again from these penalties and the pressure continued till Harrogate won a great turnover and kicked for touch to end the half.
From the restart, any Harrogate complacency was quickly ended by an outstanding try by Tafa. His powerful 35 metre run took him through several attempted tackles and Bills’s conversion reduced the deficit to 4 points. More Bees pressure followed but Harrogate won another crucial turnover and Bottomley followed up a penetrating Irvine kick to score their fifth try.
The Bees scrum pressure continued and became even more intense when Harrogate’s prop, Dan Metcalfe was sent to the bin. The 7 man Harrogate pack offended again at the next scrum and a penalty try was awarded with the conversion bringing the score to 23-25. More Harrogate problems followed with Almond having to leave the field with a nasty ankle injury and they were then reduced to a six man pack when Heaton was binned.
The Bees then had at least two very kickable penalty opportunities which would have put them a point ahead. However, they chose to go for scrums to drive the weakened Harrogate pack over the line and score. The adventurous plan failed when they were penalised for an early engagement and Harrogate’s hooker, Steve Maycock then produced a champagne moment with a 50 metres, left footed clearing kick.
Maycock also started the game’s final score with a short line-out throw from which Jake Brady made a powerful break. The ball was quickly recycled, spun right and Mike Aspinall burst through the stretched defence to make it 23-30.
Bradford & Bingley
Scull, Kanauros, Tafa, Greaves, Wellington, Bills, Jeffrey, Moss, White Wederell, Malthouse,
B Mitchell, Cochrane, M Mitchell, Ford, Coates, Cummins, Morton
Almond, Bottomley, Wackett, Dench, Denton, Irvine, Wickham, Metcalfe, Maycock, Browne, Johnson, Spencer, Brady, Heaton, Lewis, Aspinall, Innes, Seyres.
Brendan McGaffney (Northern Division)