By Richard Sykes
Kian Stewart’s brilliant diagonal burst and mazy run set up a simple try for Liam Stapley setting the seal on Huddersfield RUFC’s 23-7 win over Harrogate in National 2 North.
After the previous Saturday’s triumph over Sheffield Tigers, it was Huddersfield’s second successive Yorkshire derby victory at Lockwood Park, and one which moved them out of the bottom three in the table.
With only 15 minutes of the game remaining, and the result of the match still hanging in the balance, Field held a slender four point lead. Having recovered possession inside their own half they set up a counter attack, retaining control through a few well worked phases. The ball was passed to Stewart on the left flank, who set off on a mazy run through a crowded midfield.
Nimbly side stepping his way past would-be tacklers, he cut a diagonal towards the posts, with only the Harrogate full-back left to beat. By this time Stewart had been joined by teammates on a two-man overlap. Having done the hard work, a deft pass put hooker Stapley in for the simplest of tries, which was converted by Will Milner with equal ease.
Harrogate had started the match strongly and pressed for the first 15 minutes. They set up a series of attacking lineouts from penalties conceded by Huddersfield and used their formidable pack to try to drive over the line.
Huddersfield’s try line defence held firm, but when their No8, Eddie Brown, was yellow carded for collapsing a maul, Harrogate eventually broke the deadlock. Former Huddersfield player Declan Thompson diving over for the first try of the game, which was converted by scrum half, Kit Keith.
Having weathered the storm and welcomed Brown back to the field of play Huddersfield began to exert pressure themselves. On the half hour Field had put in at a scrum, five metres from the Harrogate line.
Brown picked up at the base of it, the ball was passed wide and full-back, Tom Hodson, cruised through the Harrogate defence for a try, which Milner failed to convert.
Just before half-time Harrogate were penalised for collapsing a maul. Milner landed an excellent penalty kick from 45 metres out and his team went into the break leading 8-7.
The first 30 minutes of the second half were characterised by some unproductive kicking out of hand by both teams, interspersed with some moments of good rugby. When Harrogate were pulled up for coming into a defensive ruck from the side, Milner landed a simple penalty from in front of the posts, before Stewart set the game alight with his brilliance.
Huddersfield finished the game in complete control, pinning Harrogate back inside their own 22. When the Harrogate outside centre tried to run the ball out of defence he met the solid form of his opposite number. Lewis Workman ripped the ball from his grasp, rolled out of the standing tackle and swallow dived over the line for the final try of the afternoon. Milner’s failed conversion attempt brought the match to its conclusion.
Head coach Gaz Lewis was pleased with his team’s performance and said: “Once again we made a slow start and made life difficult for ourselves. However, we grew into the game and began to create good phase play and started to build scoreboard pressure.
“We must work harder to speed up the breakdown when a team competes hard but full credit to the lads, we ground out an important win and confidence is clearly growing. Next week we travel to Rotherham with everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.”