Having hit their Christmas target, Harrogate rugby club will next set their sights on a top three finish this season.
Gate ensured a top six place over the festive period with a comprehensive 29-13 victory over Huddersfield at Claro Road on Saturday – despite missing four key players due to Ben Reaveley’s wedding.
The Cockerels are now level on points with third-placed Caldy in National Two North after a run of four straight wins. Pleased director of rugby Mike Aspinall said Harrogate’s first team squad can be “pretty proud” of bettering their Christmas target.
And the coach has now challenged the squad to win the race to finish behind runaway pair Hull Ionians and Amphill and District.
“The Christmas bonus is looking at the table and feeling pretty proud of what we have done so far,” Aspinall said.
“Me and the guys sat down the other week and had a brief discussion. Jake (Brady) posed the question to the guys and the answer was pretty conclusive.
“We want to keep getting better and continue stretching ourselves. We want to come top three. It has all gone to plan so far, and to have a stretching goal in the second-half, I would love to achieve that.”
Gate’s squad rotation was tested to its limits on Saturday as forwards Andy Boyde and Tom Harvey attended Reaveley’s wedding. And Aspinall’s plans were thrown into more chaos after 20 minutes when key lock Chris Wilson broke his foot. However, second teamers Jonny Coser, Steve Dewsnip and Charles Scholey stood up to the task to help Gate to victory.
Huddersfield took the lead through Joel Hinchcliffe’s smart drop goal but, soon after, Luke Edwards supported Lewis Minikin’s break to score under the posts. Joe Rowntree converted and then added a penalty.
A Callum Irvine break was then taken on by MInikin who drew his man to create space for Barry Frost’s to score his maiden Harrogate try.
Huddersfield closed to score back to 17-13 in the second half before Sam Bottomley gave away a penalty and was dispatched to the bin.
However, Hinchcliffe missed his kick and it stung Harrogate into life late on.
A 20 metres Harrogate driving maul was excellently organized by Kerry Wood and scrum Half, Danny Matthews darted over to score in the corner.
With Huddersfield down to 14, Wood then masterminded another driving maul but this time the ball was released for Irvine to put in an attacking chip from which Minikin scored the game’ final converted try.
Aspinall added: “We thought it was going to be a really tough game, and it was.
“We have known about the wedding since midway through last season and it’s something we had prepared for.
“It should be an under written rule that nobody gets married in the season but it’s a huge event and we all know it’s tough when women have a really strong idea if what they would like.
“We are trying to grow as a rugby family here and because of that, there’s going to be guys involved in that wedding. I didn’t want to tell anyone they couldn’t go..
“The challenge was to get the best day possible to get the win and then go and enjoy what was left of the wedding.
“In the end it will be marked down as a top day.”