Harrogate Rugby beat top five opposition for the first time this season in a thrilling 45-40 win over Preston Grasshoppers.
Injury-wrought Harrogate played out of their skins in the first half to run up a 40-5 lead.
Dominant scrummaging and incisive back play seemed to have put them out of sight.
Key substitutions from both sides and still further serious injuries to Harrogate players changed the shape of the game in the second half.
In the end, Harrogate were digging deep to maintain an increasingly precarious lead but they held firm to win
From the start, both sides tested each others’ defences till Harrogate won turnover ball which was spun wide. Callum Irvine wriggled out of tackles to score on the left and Joe Rowntree’s conversion put Harrogate seven points ahead.
Almost immediately, Preston responded in kind to turn over Harrogate ball and Sean Taylor burst through to score. Eight minutes into the match, a Phil Wickham break set up another Harrogate attack.
Forward pressure was built up on the Hoppers’ line and Aarin Yorke squirmed through for a converted try.
A well constructed break from defence led to a 60 metres Noel Minikin break down the right wing.
He was tackled into just short of the goal line but Harrogate put pressure on the subsequent line-out and Jake Brady powered over for another converted try.
Harrogate then stole Preston line-out ball and Yorke set up a Harrogate counter. The ball was then lost in midfield and the impressive Phil Baines set up a dangerous Hoppers attack. Rowntree intercepted a pass well inside his own half to race clear and score under the posts.
Great Harrogate set piece play was complemented by powerful drives from Jimmy Browne, Brady, Nathan Smith and Tim Heaton. A powerful Brady break created enough space for Luke Edwards to score and, shortly afterwards, Edwards’ initial break was taken on by Yorke.
Brady’s strength continued the move and recycled ball was spun along the line for Oli Denton to score.
Another Rowntree touchline conversion gave Harrogate their seemingly unassailable half time lead.
Preston attacked from the restart with substitute scrum half, Craig Aikman orchestrating their moves. Almost immediately, Lewis Minikin had to leave the field with a serious ankle injury and the visitors’ pressure continued.
From a driving maul, hooker Phil Mills scored with Lewis Allen adding the extra points.
Edwards then had to leave the field with a suspected broken jaw but Harrogate continued to attack at every opportunity.
Possession was lost after a promising Irvine break and Taylor left tacklers for dead for a converted try.
The Hoppers’ pressure continued and Eddie Webster was the next to score from a driving maul.
The restart put Harrogate into Preston’s half and Yorke charged down an attempted clearance kick to gather and score a brilliant individual try.
More Hoppers attacks followed but Harrogate’s attempted open play continued and a long Irvine break was halted just short of the line.
With five minutes remaining, Preston spread the ball wide from an attacking line-out and Taylor scored his second converted try.
Desperate Hoppers attacks followed with even more desperate defence leading to a sin bin visit for Dan Metcalfe.
Allen scored a converted try from the resulting penalty but the final whistle then ended the match, greatly to Harrogate’s relief.
Denton, Irvine, N Minikin, Edwards (Adair 49), L Minikin (Parrish 41), Rowntree, Wickham (Matthews 52), Metcalfe, Yorke, Browne (Reaveley 60), Brady, Spencer (Wilson 47), Harvey, Smith, Heaton.
Taylor, Hughes (Birchall 40), Fitzpatrick, Ward, Baines, Allen, Kindred (Aikman 40), Madden, Mills, Morton (Tuff 70), Irving, Wallbank (Murray 45), Lees, Wallace (Webster 40), Moon
Pete Stentiford (Northern)