Wirral Mistakes Let in Harrogate
For the first league match of 2018, Wirral travelled for the first meeting between the clubs in Yorkshire.
The contest was at Harrogate’s ‘new’ ground constructed 3 years ago. Harrogate had done much work on the ground to ensure the game was played. It will be recalled that Wirral defeated Harrogate heavily and it was evident talking to spectators and the notes in the programme that they eagerly sought revenge.
In training on Tuesday and Thursday, Wirral suffered injuries to three key players, TOM PARRY (ankle ligaments), RYAN HIGGINSON (shoulder) and JACK YARKER (dead leg and man flu). The props were Chris Hughes
and Steve Pendergast
with JAMES REEVES coming into the back row, into the second row HAYDN LONG joined MATT DALTON. The subs were Gareth Burkes
, Paul Lewis
and making his debut, Matt Dowler
The match kicked off in bright sunshine and Wirral were quickly into their stride with JAMES REEVES making a break before passing onto Rob Pearl
who was tackled well into the Harrogate 20m area, the ball was recycled but unfortunately the ball was knocked on close to the posts. On 10 minutes play was in mid field when a Harrogate kick was fumbled by Wirral and the home team kicked forward and Andrew Lawson, the centre won the race to touch down and was converted by Luke White.7-0 (10 mins). Seven minutes later Wirral were on the scoreboard when the ball came out to Matt Loon
50m out, who advanced downfield and following the ball passing through a number of hands, Matt Loon
received again to score in the corner, the conversion just went wide from the touchline. 7-5. On 21 minutes Wirral gave away an easy penalty in front of the posts which was duly dispatched. 10-5.
Harrogate were using the long kicking game with Wirral having to recover from deep positions but generally play was contained in mid field as Wirral also resorted to the kicking game. In the play immediately before half time, a long kick took play down to the Wirral 5m line, where Wirral failed to clear effectively and from this position, Harrogate controlled the ball and mauled their way over the line with a try from hooker, Aaron Yorke. The try was not converted leaving the score 15-5 at half time.
Immediately after the break, Wirral were on the attack and a blind side break saw Mark Williams
make progress before passing inside to James Annetts
,who was then tackled 1m from the line, Craig Harvey
was on hand to scoop up the ball and dive over to score and was well converted from wide out by James Annetts
. 15-12 (42 minutes).
The Harrogate backs were getting more of the ball and their winger was scrambled into touch 10m from the Wirral line. On 50mins Harrogate refused a penalty opportunity and kicked for touch. JAMES REEVES came off injured and was replaced by Matt Dowler
. Harrogate took the line out and swift passing down the line resulted in winger, Dave Doherty having an easy run in on the left wing, the conversion was made by Luke White, 22-12. (50 mins). Paul Lewis
came on for HAYDN LONG.
Wirral continued to attack but the ball was not running for them until the 55th minute when a short grubber kick was put through for Mark Williams
to chase it bounced off a home player, MARK kept back as he was now in an off-side position, however the ball was collected and passed to James Annetts
who ran the 15m to score, only to miss the conversion. 22-17. Difficult to believe that this was to be the final try after 55 minutes. Both teams now strove for the try bonus point knowing that kicking downfield was the only way to make meaningful territory on a heavy pitch. On 62 minutes, Gareth Burkes
came on for Steve Pendergast
The only remaining scoring in the last quarter was a penalty by Harrogate to take Wirral two scores away from a win and to miss out on a losing bonus point. Wirral continued to press but could not break the home team defence as Harrogate wound down the time. Whilst Harrogate may feel they avenged their defeat earlier in the season, two of the tries were due to mistakes by Wirral and if Wirral had taken their opportunities it may have been a different result.
Next week Wirral are at home to 2nd placed Lymm, who will be keen to keep up their promotion challenge and reverse the cup defeat a few weeks ago.