Harrogate strolled into the Yorkshire Cup final at a canter with a simple 52-0 demolition job over Wheatley Hills at Wetherby’s Grange Park.
Playing against a side a tier lower, Harrogate director of rugby Mike Aspinall rested several of the Cockerels star players but still came away with a convincing victory.
Aspinall chose to rely on several first team fringe players and handed a debut to 18-year-old hooker Sam Beagrie – son of ex-Bradford City and Hull City footballer Peter.
“It was a really good level for some of the younger lads to be stepping up to from the second XV,” said Aspinall.
“That is good for the competition in the squad as guys as coming through and driving standards from the bottom.
“Harry and Sam showed they were very good players at that level, and ultimately, we will look at it and see if we can give them National Two North games this season or next.
“For Luke to captain the side was a massive credit to him for the growth of his leadership skills this season.”
Despite playing two levels below Harrogate, Wheatley Hills gave it their all in a competitive first half. However, Harrogate’s superior organisation and fitness became more and more evident and their young backs ran away with it in the second half.
Harrogate went through their attacking moves from the start and a Callum Irvine break was well supported by Edwards whose try was converted by Irvine.
Minutes later, forwards and backs combined well to make space for a good Irvine try which made it 12-0 after 10 minutes. Astonishingly, that was the final score of the half. A combination of stern Wheatley defence and Harrogate handling errors prevented any further scoring.
Shortly after the break, a quickly taken Phil Wickham penalty led to Irvine dancing through for his second converted try. Prolonged pressure on the Wheatley line ended with a try for prop Nino Cutino, which was converted by replacement stand-off, Joe Rowntree.
The Harrogate forward pressure continued and, although Ben Reaveley, Cutino’s prop colleague, was held up just short of the line, the ball was recycled to Willem Enslin who powered over for another converted try.
Strong running from Harrogate centre Cam Leadley featured throughout the match and he drew the defence to put replacement winger Barnard clear for the next try. James Audsley-Beck then made a spectacular right wing break and, although an unlucky bounce took his attacking chip away from him, Noel Minikin was in support to score under the posts. A Rowntree break set up Harrogate’s final attack and impressive finishing from Barnard made it 52-0.
Harrogate are likely to face National One outfit Wharfedale in a gripping final on April 30, should the neighbours progress,
Gate travel to 11th-placed Leicester Lions on Saturday, a side with an excellent home record. Lions have won ten matches on home turf this season, with only two defeats.
From the dugout...
On a potential final against Wharfedale: “We will be underdogs but we will be well up for the challenge. A local derby and a cup final, you don’t get much better than that.”
On Leicester Lions away on Saturday: “They are always a very tough side to play away. We always seem to have a battle there one way or another. We will be expecting a really tough encounter and we know we need to be putting in the type of performance we did against Chester two weeks ago.
On the season run-in: “We are staring at these three fixtures knowing if we can get things right we still have a chance to come away from this season having achieve our target of third place, and we might even have a Yorkshire Cup to add to the trophy cabinet as well.”