Westoe 29 Harrogate 10: Harrogate denied by late strike after prop change proves costly
In a very fast match, Westoe’s more controlled game plan and clinical finishing earned them the win though the 29-10 margin was flattering.
Among the many firsts, the game was played on an artificial pitch, Callum Irvine made a very promising debut and a professor of vascular surgery, Ralph Kester, performed Harrogate’s physiotheraphy duties on the day.
The opening 10 minutes saw both sides testing each other’s defences and Harrogate made an ambitious counter-attack from their own line.
When the attack broke down, Westoe seized possession and centre Tommy Banks powered through for the opening try of the game.
Harry Hannan then scattered Westoe bodies with a powerful run.
When he was eventually stopped, the ball was quickly recycled and Pete Lucock dived over in the corner to equalise.
A further even period of play followed before a scintillating break by Irvine sparked another Harrogate attack.
The ever-present Tim Heaton supported the move and was powerful enough to breach the defence and put Harrogate ahead.
Westoe had to marshal their defences to cope with Hannan’s powerful running and this created more space from which Ruaridh Carmichael orchestrated more attacks.
Irvine, Lucock and Toby Quarendon were dangerous runners but it was Westoe left winger Gareth Kerr who burst through for a try from a quickly taken penalty.
The powerful and gusty wind made for very difficult kicking conditions but Westoe No 8 Oliver Steadman had been drafted in as an emergency kicker and landed a beautiful conversion from out on the touchline.
This put the home side, somewhat fortunately 12-10 ahead at the break having had the wind advantage so it looked very promising for Harrogate.
A Harrogate half-time front row substitution changed the pattern of the game.
Westoe loose-head prop Gareth Nesbitt has been the driving force behind their scrummaging for the past couple of years and Harrogate’s changes put Jimmy Browne, a non-specialist tight-head, against him.
Predictably, Nesbitt wreaked havoc and Harrogate lost an important source of quality ball.
Harrogate’s generally well-organised defence showed occasional lapses and Kerr took full advantage to score from a strong run.
Another touchline conversion from Steadman made it 19-10 but Harrogate were given hope when Nesbitt had to retire with an elbow injury which led to more even scrummaging.
The result seemed to be hanging in the balance for the next 15 minutes but some poor Harrogate midfield defence allowed Banks to burst through for a between the posts try.
Steadman converted and sealed the home win with a penalty towards the end of the match.