Twice, in a game in which they were always behind, Huddersfield put themselves back into contention. Each time, their lack of composure cost them dearly and Harrogate secured a comfortable, 29-15 win in the National 2 North basement battle at Lockwood Park.
Huddersfield Director of Rugby, Gaz Lewis, said: “It is disappointing to be beaten in a game of this importance. We played too much behind the gain line and to lose three tries to catch and drives was poor. However, there were some encouraging signs when we made mid-field line breaks, but we must get better at finishing off opportunities when they arise.”
Harrogate were held up on the line just 5 minutes into the game. Although Field responded positively it was the visitors that made the breakthrough.
The first score came after Field lost an attacking lineout. Indiscipline allowed Harrogate to make ground and a penalty took them to Huddersfield’s five metre line. The lineout was clean, the maul took play infield and the release saw the ball travel full width to Will Yates on the left wing, who dotted down in the corner.
The penalty, lineout maul sequence saw Harrogate double their lead on 17 minutes with a second try. This time the ball stayed in the maul and prop Tom Baxter touched down when it was driven over the white wash.
After the setbacks Field clicked into gear. Ed Barber, making his debut in the centre, made a decisive break and combined well with flanker Ed Brown, who was tackled just short of the line.
Field maintained the pressure and when Harrogate were penalised, Field opted to scrummage. The set piece ball was worked wide to fly half Matt Law, who took it at pace to race in for an unconverted try to half the deficit.
The first half ended with more try scoring drama. Harrogate increased their lead when flanker, Will Hill, scored another try stemming from a lineout which was converted by full back, Rory Macnab. But, it was the home side that finished the half on the front foot.
Winger Cameron Catleugh seized the initiative for Field, chasing down the re-start kick to gain possession. Barber entered the attack with another powerful burst and although he was caught, he delivered a simple pass to Law, who scored the simplest of tries under the posts. Will Milner added the conversion and then another 3 points, with a penalty kick, to bring the half to a close with the score at 15-17.
Field took to the pitch in good time for the start of the second half and tore into Harrogate with purpose. The game seemed there for the taking. However, Harrogate proved resolute in defence and having survived the early onslaught, winger James Magee managed to break clear and set scrum half, Peter Olley, up under the posts, for the bonus point try, which Macnab converted.
After this Field’s attacking play took on a panicked aspect. All too often promising moves broke down due to hastiness, poor passing and careless handing and good scoring opportunities were lost at the lineout, which misfired throughout the game.
In contrast Harrogate’s second half play was much more controlled and, crucially, their throw ins delivered clean ball, on which the team continued to cash in.
Midway through the second period fly half, Sam Fox, took possession from a lineout inside Field’s 22, and delivered an inch perfect cross field kick to James Magee on the right wing for the final try of the game.
Two moments of rugby magic were exhibited late in the match by Huddersfield winger, Fin Stewart. They illustrated the individual talent that exists in a team that has yet to deliver its full potential. The first came in defence when Rupert Scrase broke clear and kicked the ball through. Stewart outpaced him in the chase, dropped onto the loose ball, got back on his feet and evaded the tackle in one brilliant, sliding movement. Shortly afterwards he set off on a mazy run from inside his own half, leaving would be tacklers in his wake, only to be brought down 5 metres from the line, preventing him scoring what might well been the try of the season had he made it.
There are no National 2 North games next week. Field’s next opponents are Hull Ionians, away, on 15 October.
Huddersfield: Workman; Catleugh; Barber; Milner; Stewart F; Law; Wilson; Thompson; Stapley; Rollins; Pearson; Jones; Brown; Bradley (capt); Jennings. Replacements: Davis; Potter; Effiom; Knight; Dawson.
Written by Richard Sykes.