Namesakes and ex-Tykes team-mates do battle in vital derby

James Doherty of Leeds is no coaching Wharfedale
James Doherty of Leeds is no coaching Wharfedale
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The first league meeting in a decade between old rivals Harrogate RUFC and Wharfedale takes place at Rudding Park in National two North today.

And the derby clash carries even more weight than usual, with both sides desperate for a victory that would help them move away from the foot of the table.

David Doherty: Former Yorkshire Carnegie winger is in charge of Harrogate.

David Doherty: Former Yorkshire Carnegie winger is in charge of Harrogate.

Harrogate currently find themselves bottom of the pile following eight defeats from their opening nine fixtures.

Yet their local rivals sit just three points and one place above them, meaning that success for Dave Doherty’s Harrogate would see them leapfrog their opponents in the league standings.

“It’s a huge game for us,” said Doherty.

“A win is really important given the relative positions of both teams going into the game. We need to move up the table, and we don’t want to lose any more ground on Wharfedale, who are directly above us.

“A result on Saturday would be massive and would help ease the pressure that comes with being bottom of the league.”

Although Doherty says that his side will approach the game like any other – in terms of how they intend to play their rugby – he has acknowledged that the nature of the fixture is likely to result in an intense encounter.

“There is a lot of history between the two clubs and I’m expecting it to be a massively passionate affair in front of a huge crowd,” he added.

“It’s a derby game, which always adds spice, and the occasion won’t be lost on us. We’re all looking forward to it.

“We have to make sure that we manage the pressure of the occasion properly, however, and deliver a result.”

Doherty and Wharfedale head coach James Doherty are old team-mates from their Leeds Carnegie and Cornish Pirates days, and the ‘Gate supremo says he knows what to expect from Saturday’s opponents.

“I know James well and have a lot of respect for him,” Doherty continued of his namesake.

“His side will be well-drilled and they are very strong in the backs. It’s going to be a really tough test, but I’m confident we can win.”

Wharfedale are without their trio of Latvian imports who are on international duty. Scott Jordon and Oliver Cicognini go into the backs to replace the Davidson brothers and James Huck starts at prop instead of Toms Asejevs.

Huw Morgan replaces the injured Andy Hodgson at centre. Jimmy Bullough gets the nod at scrum-half with Ralph Wellock on the bench.

Influential Rob Baldwin faces a long layoff with damage to the bicep tendon in his right arm.