HARROGATE held firm to claim victory in Stockport on Saturday, returnign 15-14 winners in National Two North.
This was a desperately close match but Harrogate’s outstanding defence proved to be the winning factor.
Stockport were 7-10 down at half time but then went ahead with a converted try and battered away at Harrogate for the rest of the match.
Harrogate held them out until, with 5 minutes remaining, Ryan Peacey took a quick free kick and squirmed through for an outstanding individual try.
Mike Aspinall’s attempted conversion bounced off the upright but the visitors held on for the remaining nerve racking minutes.
The match started with waves of Harrogate attacks and a powerful Nick Beaumont drive led to Stockport conceding a penalty just short of the try line.
A straightforward three points were on offer but Aspinall caught the defence napping with a quick tap and dived over to score.
The Harrogate pressure continued but Stockport’s big powerful runners were coming more into the game and it took a devastating Sam Bottomley midfield tackle to halt a home attack.
Stockport then went offside and an Aspinall penalty put Harrogate 0-10 ahead.
An attempted Aspinall clearance was charged down but he partially atoned with a try saving tackle as Stockport drove for the line.
However, Stockport took complete control of the subsequent scrum and No8 Dan Eccles scored near the touchline. An excellent Josh Longmore conversion followed and Stockport mounted repeated attacks for the rest of the half.
The same pattern followed from the resumption and Tom Cruse, the outstanding Stockport hooker, burst through the Harrogate defence in a powerful 30 metre break.
Fortunately for Harrogate, he ran out of support and was tackled just short of the line. Still more home pressure followed but a great Sam Brady turnover denied them a seemingly certain try.
The pressure had to tell but, ironically, Stockport’s next try came from Harrogate driving a home scrum backwards. The referee spotted something illegal and Stockport opted for a 5 metre scrum from the penalty. This time their pack took control and replacement No8, Jordan Pearson, scored from the drive to give Longmore a straightforward conversion.
Peacey had come on as a second half replacement and his skill and experience proved to be invaluable. He supported an electric Aspinall break to turn defence into attack and Bottomley’s powerful direct running also gave Stockport problems. However, Stockport were still largely dominating and Harrogate didn’t make life any easier for themselves when they repeatedly missed touch from what should have been relieving penalty kicks.
As the final whistle loomed, Harrogate mounted a late attack and were awarded a five-metre scrum. A free kick was awarded for a Stockport offence, Peacey did his stuff and Harrogate took the lead.
For the remaining few minutes, Harrogate efficiently retained possession with a series of pick and drives and secured an important win
Stockport: S Pearson, J Anthony , Bayssat, Newton (Green 75), Hall (Oben 67), Longmore, Wathey, C Anthony, Cruse, Anderson (Fuller 74), Marwick, Ralph, Hopkins (J Pearson 32), Smith, Eccles (Connor 51)
Harrogate: Gemmell, Heylings, Bottomley, Quarendon, Minikin, Aspinall, Wickham, Bergmanas (Innes 65), Maycock, Browne, Harvey, S Brady (J Brady 65), Beaumont (Peacey 52), Tyson, Heaton
Referee: Guy Steele-Bodger (RFU)