Injury-time Tigers try crushes Gate hopes

hsb  'Gate v Preston Grasshoppers.  Jake Brady  (131116M1c)
hsb 'Gate v Preston Grasshoppers. Jake Brady (131116M1c)

Harrogate slipped to a narrow 17-16 defeat away at Sheffield Tigers in National Two North on Saturday.

When Harrogate played the Tigers two years ago, a controversial refereeing decision denied Sheffield what would have been an injury time match winning try.

It was role reversal time this year when Sheffield were awarded an injury time try despite the ball appearing to have been touched down short of the line.

Nevertheless, although Harrogate had dominated play for most of the match, they were outscored by 3 tries to 1.

They must blame themselves for poor finishing while giving credit to the excellent Tigers defence.

Harrogate went into overdrive from the start with solid forward drives producing good ball from which the backs went through their range of attacking moves.

With limited possession, Sheffield also attacked so it was certainly entertaining rugby.

An early Jake Brady drive was well supported by Jimmy Browne and flying winger, Harry Parrish cut through the home defence for a dazzling run which was stopped just short of the try line.

More attacks followed and, when The Tigers went offside, Joe Rowntree’s attempted penalty goal hit the upright and the home side cleared their line.

A Harrogate offside offence resulted in a Sheffield attacking line-out and prop, Will Bennett drove over to open the scoring.

Home danger man, Peter Swatkins mounted a tremendous counter attack from defence and his scintillating run had taken him inside Harrogate’s 22 before a desperate tackle checked him.

Sam Bottomley had made a welcome return to Harrogate’s midfield after a long injury absence and played an increasingly influential role in the match.

After 20 minutes play, a Harrogate driving maul was halted illegally by Tigers scrum half, Alex Drage who was penalised and yellow carded.

Rowntree kicked the three points but Harrogate failed to score again during Drage’s absence. Towards the end of the half, Harrogate’s abrasive flanker, Nathan Smith was also sent to the sin bin.

Harrogate opened the second half with wave after wave of attacking rugby.

Excellent ball retention set Bottomley up for a break which was carried on at pace by full back, Oli Denton.

His well judged pass put Parrish into space for a fine converted try which put Harrogate ahead. Denton then made another searing attack down the left wing and chipped ahead to go for a race to the line.

He managed to keep his balance despite a blatant Swatkins attempted trip and won the race for the touch-down. Inexplicably, the try was not awarded and, even more surprisingly, Swatkins wasn’t even penalised.

Strong running from Smith set up more Harrogate attacks with Bottomley and Parrish a constant threat.

A Rowntree penalty put Harrogate further ahead when Sheffield went offside and they continued to mount attacks.

Another Bottomley break was well supported by Callum Irvine but the move broke down and Harrogate were penalised at the subsequent scrum.

Substitutions were being made at this stage of the game and, while Sheffield’s changes increased their momentum, Harrogate weakened themselves by their substitutions.

With 5 minutes of normal time remaining, prolonged Tigers drives at the Harrogate line resulted in a converted try for Drage to make the score 12-13.

Minutes later, a Rowntree penalty seemed to have ensured a Harrogate win but the Sheffield forwards continued to batter at the visitors’ line.

Desperate defence resulted in Bottomley being “binned” and, in the game’s final move, Drage was awarded his second try.

The defeat leaves Harrogate ninth in National Two North, ahead of this Saturday’s hosting of Sedgley Park (2pm).