National Two North: Harrogate edge past Chester despite Harvey dismissal

Sam Bottomley scored a try just before the break for Harrogate (Photo: David Aspinall)
Sam Bottomley scored a try just before the break for Harrogate (Photo: David Aspinall)

Chester 23-27 Harrogate

Harrogate jumped into the top half of National Two North with a close-run victory at Chester despite having forward Tom Harvey sent off midway through the second half.

Tries from Callum Irvine, Willem Enslin and Sam Bottomley put Gate nine points ahead at the interval.

Noel Minikin then scored a crucial bonus-point clinching try late in the game as Gate held off a fightback from the hosts.

Andy King twice crossed the whitewash for Chester but it was not enough to dampen Harrogate's day.

The victory moved 'Gate into seventh place and to within four points of fierce rivals Otley.

The National Two North table

The National Two North table

In the pre-match warm up, Matt Lansdall sustained a badly torn hamstring so Alex Nesbitt was promoted from the bench and his place was taken by director of rugby Mike Aspinall.

Nevertheless, in the opening minute, Harrogate’s pack won excellent turnover ball and Danny Matthews’s quick pass put Callum Irvine into just enough space to break the Chester cover. He danced through the home defence in a mesmerising 35 metres run to score and give Lewis Minikin a straightforward conversion.

Chester immediately counter attacked but Harrogate’s defence held firm until they went offside and a Rhys Hayes penalty opened the home account.

A long Irvine line kick then set up more pressure on Chester’s line forcing them to concede a penalty.

The resulting attacking line-out led to a well controlled driving maul from which Willem Enslin drove over and Lewis MInikin’s touchline conversion made it 14-3.

Chester’s pacey backs continued to look dangerous and Harrogate’s defence did concede some penalties which, despite changing their kickers, Chester missed.

Quickly spun ball from a line-out led to Sam Bottomley bursting through an initial attempted tackle and powering through the home defence for Harrogate third try.

Towards the end of the half, Chester’s backs finally got through Harrogate’s defence and Josh Wilson finished the move with a good try. The conversion failed as did another late penalty goal attempt.

After the interval, home centre Craig Ross broke strongly and the ball was quickly recycled for winger Sean Green to score.

The Harrogate pack then won yet another turnover, Chester went offside in defence and a Lewis Minikin penalty made it 22-13.

An even period of play followed with both teams defending well against inventive back play.

Throughout the match, Harrogate’s dominant front row was well supported by the second row Brady brothers and a hard working, scavenging back row.

However, the balance of power seemed to have changed when Harvey was red carded for adjudged stamping.

Nevertheless, Harrogate’s seven man pack continued to rule the scrums though their reduced defence was continually stretched.

Continued attacks eventually created space for substitute Adam King to score but, almost inevitably, the conversion was missed.

From the restart, Chester’s defence fumbled a high Irvine kick and Noel Minikin stripped the ball from the defender to sprint clear and score Harrogate bonus point winning try.

Chester continued to attack and, in the dying moments, King scored his second try to earn them a second bonus point. Harrogate’s team spirit was then epitomised by Lewis Minikin charging down the attempted conversion

Chester: Hayes, Wilson, Ross, Foden, Green, Bennett, Williams, Woods, Blackwell, Strudwick, Jones, White, Joseph, Bown, Ford. Subs used:- Smith, King, Moore.

Harrogate: L Minikin, Bottomley, N Minikin, Nesbitt, Aspin, Irvine, Matthews, Purkis-McEndoo, Jarder, Reaveley, J Brady, S Brady, Harvey, J Coser, Enslin. Subs:- Maycock, Ward, G Coser, Boyde, Aspinall

Referee: Neil Chivers (RFU)