Harrogate await Yorkshire Cup final in bid for tenth triumph

Harrogate RUFC captain Jake Brady
Harrogate RUFC captain Jake Brady

A tenth Yorkshire Cup triumph would go a long way to uniting Harrogate Rugby Club, according to director of rugby Mike Aspinall.

Harrogate go into tonight’s final as underdogs against the might of National One neighbours Wharfedale at West Park Leeds’ ground (kick-off 7.30pm).

However, Aspinall’s men were buoyed by a thrilling come back to beat Stourbridge 29-28 at the weekend, which put them fourth in the final National Two North table.

And the head coach reckons his side deserve a trophy for the new Rudding Lane complex for their efforts over the last nine months.

“It’s awesome to have the opportunity to have a chance to pick up silverware in a local derby and have a shot at taking a scalp of a National One side,” he said.

“Winning would be the icing of the cake but that cake is the important thing.

“It’s taken one hell of a long time to bake and it’s great to have that one opportunity to make it taste even sweeter.”

Harrogate last won the competition 12 years ago when beating Doncaster in the final, with their first success dating back to 1905 – with a triumph over Wakefield in a replay at Castleford.

But Aspinall will use the club’s Under 16s squad’s county glory last week as the prime focus in his team-talk, urging his senior squad to repeat that success.

Aspinall revealed there has been a long-running “divide” between the junior and senior section which he has tried to iron out over the last few years.

And, he said a giant county cup win against Wharfedale would frank the ‘one-club’ notion he has tried to introduce.

He said: “ When I arrived, there seemed to be a big junior and senior club divide. There seems to be some bad feeling hanging around from that. I can’t quite put my finger on it at Harrogate.

“We are making a real attempt to put that behind us.

“It would be awesome for us to follow in the footsteps of the U16s who won the Yorkshire Cup last weekend, which was a massive achievement for them.

“For the senior to emulate that would go somewhere to heeling some of the wounds that are there in the club.”

Wharfedale finished fifth bottom in National One, only nine places above Gate in the sport’s hierarchy.

But Aspinall was wary of the power the Skipton-based side presented and said coping with their physicality would be pivotal to Gate’s chances.

He added: “They are an enormous front five, with some really big guys. Then they have a quick and agile back row. First and foremost that eight will be our challenge. If we don’t deal with that physically, there’s not point looking any further.

“Hopefully it will be a nice spring evening and the Harrogate hundreds will be there on mass to cheer us on.”