....seemed to be in with a real chance of winning this vital match. However, the excellent Preston backs took Harrogate apart in the second half.
In the first minute of the match, a Sean long break was well supported by the visiting pack and No8, Dominic Moon, powered through for a try, converted by Nathan Fowles. Harrogate were still very much in contention and a searing Mike Aspinall midfield break split the Hoppers’ defence. Preston conceded a penalty at the breakdown which was quickly taken and Ed Smithies squeezed in to score in the corner.
When teams are struggling, fate always seems to be against them. A promising Harrogate counter-attack from defence was halted by an astonishing forward pass decision and Preston set up another attack from the subsequent scrum. Quick ball put full back, Sean Taylor, into a bit of space but he still had work to do before scoring a fine converted try.
Harrogate then built up a series of attacks from a powerful Ryan Peacey drive, Preston went offside and Aspinall kicked a straightforward penalty. A Smithies counter attack then led to another Preston offside offence and Aspinall’s penalty brought Harrogate within 3 points of the leaders at the interval.
This was as good as it got for Harrogate. The workmanlike Hoppers pack kept providing good ball for their talented backs and they took full advantage of this. Bad Harrogate kicking also gave the visiting backs still more opportunities to demonstrate their skills.
A pinpoint Long crosskick was gathered by right winger Matt Gargett for the next converted try. This was shortly followed by a badly judged kick to Gargett who broke clear for his second score. Harrogate continued to play attacking rugby but gifted an interception try to left winger, Phil Baines. This was Preston’s 6th converted try but they spoiled their 100% record with their final score. Another fine long crosskick led to Baines’s second try but Fowles had been substituted and Long narrowly missed the conversion attempt.
In the final move of the match, Harrogate counter attacked from deep and scrum half, Phil Wickham, sold an outrageous dummy to open up a huge gap and score a converted try.
Match report by Bill Barrack