Hoppers won this top of the table clash more comprehensively than the score line suggests, losing concentration in the closing minutes and conceding two tries to give Harrogate a losing bonus point.
Words by Ken Moore, photo by Mike Craig
Coach Paul Arnold said it was a bit of a ‘mixed bag’. “I am happier with the result – we wanted the 5 points – than I am with the performance. We defended well when necessary and gained dominance in the tight but we also made some poor decisions, the lineout was ‘iffy’ and we were average at times. We lacked intensity and there is some work to do next week although there is no game next Saturday. We’ve only played two games in the last month and the blank dates are not working for us.”
Hoppers started strongly and from the off had the visiting pack struggling in the scrum and conceding penalties. Good carries from Chris Roddy and Ali Murray took play deep into the visitors’ 22 and from a strike against the head, Matt Lamprey made ground and back row colleague Ollie Trippier was in for the opening try with 14 minutes on the clock. The kick failed but Hoppers kept the pressure on with a long touch from Alex Ward and, taking the option of a scrum for a penalty, Lamprey picked up and drove over for a second touchdown 4 minutes later.
A mistake from the kick off reception gave Harrogate some possession and they laid siege to the home goal line and only good defence kept them out although at the expense of a yellow card for Trippier. Changing tactics, a pin point cross kick from No.10 Luke White almost brought a try for winger Harry Jukes but White landed a penalty awarded for an earlier infringement to make it 10-3.
Hoppers responded immediately gaining possession from the kick off and, after a strong run from P J Millea, Ali Murray spotted a gap in midfield to go under the posts and this time Jake Squirrell was on target with the kick.
Hoppers defence was again tested as half time approached and a penetrating run from full back Oli Rosillo set up an attack and, from a lineout drive, the visiting pack were held up in goal and the score remained 17-3 at the break.
At the restart Harrogate raised their game and a break from centre Harry Barnard put his side on the attack and again some stout defence was needed. Hoppers managed to clear their lines and take play into the opposition 22 where a lineout drive was stopped illegally resulting in a yellow card for prop Connor Ward and, almost inevitably, a pushover try followed, Lamprey claiming the touchdown and Squirrell’s conversion made it 24-3 on 55 minutes.
Hoppers continued to dominate in the tight and more pressure should have produced more points but several scoring opportunities were squandered.
With some 15 minutes left, Hoppers rang the changes from the bench but this seemed to disturb the balance of the pack and forfeited their dominance upfront, It was now the home side’s turn to incur the displeasure of referee Matt Riley and Harrogate seized the chance to get something out of the game. The home defence lost shape in the final few minutes and flanker Tim Heaton and lock Sam Brady touched down, both converted by White, to salvage an unlikely losing bonus point.
Here’s how the other results went