Harrogate 8 Fylde 33: Key to determined defense for fourth straight win

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Harrogate were brave and spirited but Fylde was never in real danger, taking his risks and defending vigorously to concede just one try for the second week running.

The five teams in the breakaway group at the top of National Two North have all won convincingly this weekend, meaning third-placed Fylde remains one point behind Sedgley Park and six behind leaders Hull, having played a match more than the two.

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Harrogate action against Fylde in North Yorkshire Photo: FYLDE RFC

On a dry, calm day at the Apollo Capital Stadium, heavy ground made free rugby difficult.

Fylde’s top try scorer Tom Carleton was kept in reserve on the bench, nursing a dead leg, so Ben Turner was promoted to full-back

Tom Forster moved to center also alongside Joe Bedlow, with injury again ruling out Scott Rawlings.

All the early pressure and possession benefited Fylde, although the hosts took the lead on their first real foray into Fylde territory in the 13th minute.

Stand-off Rory Macnab created the opener, which resulted in a sin from Fylde’s Dave Fairbrother for illegally entering the breakdown. Talismanic number eight left the field before the referee had even pulled the cream-colored card from his pocket. Kit Keith kicked the penalty.

Despite being a man down, Fylde responded immediately as Matt Garrod charged the ball and galloped to hit the ground before he could cross the dead ball line.

Greg Smith came up short with the conversion but Fylde had a 5-3 lead, a lead they were never to relinquish.

With just 14 men left, Fylde increased the lead to 12-3 in the 19th minute, when sustained pressure saw Ben O’Ryan blast his way in from close range. This time Smith added the extras.

The rest of the half was a tussle until 35 minutes when Harrogate’s William Dennis was shown a yellow card for interfering in the crash.

Fylde used the extra man around the blindside and Matt Sturgess scored for the third game in a row, Smith converting again to give Fylde a healthy 19-3 halftime lead.

The second half was not spectacular. Harrogate ran the ball hard all day, especially their impressive second and captain Sam Brady, but lacked any real edge and Fylde was able to mop up in defense and wait for the error or a turnover.

With neither team managing to put together sustained possession moves, Fylde started ringing the changes and Zack Barrow was among those introduced after a long spell with a knee problem.

A fine set move in the backline saw Henry Hadfield cross a gap and the in-form winger drew in the last man before putting on Ben Turner for an excellent try.

Smith knocked down the extras again and Fylde was nearly home and doused, meaning Carleton could stay wrapped in cotton.

Fylde’s try line was finally breached in the 64th minute, when Harrogate won a series of penalties and Matt Ashcroft earned Fylde’s second yellow card of the day.

Ben Raubitschek then scored on a catch-and-drive and it was 26-8 when the conversion hit a post.

Knowing another score at home could create some anxious moments, Fylde got down on his knees and put the game to bed with his fifth try in 75 minutes.

Corey Bowker broke, displaying good skill and pace, before Matt Sturgess found an ever-willing back-up runner in Hadfield, who dashed in.

With Smith among those given a break, Sturgess stroked the final points of the day.

Assistant head coach Chris Briers said: “We have to be happy with another bonus points win away from home. Harrogate threw everything they had at us and we had to deserve this win.

“We defended well when we needed to and took our chances well when we had them.

“Next week at home to Rotherham will be a stern test of our 100 per cent home record, but we’re looking forward to it as we look to salvage one for our loss at home and inflict their first defeat. It must be a very good game.”

Fylde: Turner, Grimes, Foster, Bedlow, Hadfield, Smith (Lanigan 62), Sturgess, Kyle-Clay (Ashcroft 51), Gregory (c), Bowker (Barrow 51), Parkinson, Garrod, Corrie, O’Ryan (Blake 52), Fairbrother; Non-player substitute: Carleton

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