Harrogate 25 Wirral 17

WIRRAL Sixth travelled to Harrogate fifth for the first game of 2018 with the home team determined to avenge the heavy defeat suffered at Clatterbridge at the beginning of the season.

Prior to the game, Wirral lost both props and a back row forward in training on Thursday evening, which had the effect in reducing their effectiveness around the park.

However, it was Wirral who started the game the better with James Reeve making a break but keen tackling stopped progression in the Harrogate 20-metre area.

It was Harrogate who took the lead in the 10th minute when a dropped ball by Wirral enabled them to hack the ball through with centre, Andrew Lawson winning the race to touchdown, with the conversion by Luke White.

Seven minutes later a good control of the ball in heavy conditions enabled Wirral to open their account with Matt Loon starting the move before receiving the final pass to score in the corner, the try was not converted. 7-5.

Harrogate extended their lead with an easy penalty before scoring a second try with the last play of the first half.

Wirral had not effectively cleared the ball from their five-metre line and keen Harrogate tackling prevented the clearance.

From the resultant play, Harrogate controlled the ball to maul their way over the line, through hooker Aaron Yorke, to give the home side a 15-5 lead at half time.

Immediately after half time Wirral bounced back, when a blind side move saw Jimmy Annetts stopped 1m short of the line and from this position, Craig Harvey picked up to dive over for a try, which was well converted by James Annetts.

In the 51st minute, Harrogate scored their final try when slick handling in the backs saw winger David Doherty cross easily and this was converted by Luke White to restore Harrogate's 10 point advantage, 22-12.

Defences were certainly on top with much of the game being controlled in the middle of the pitch as tactical kicking for territory became the name of the game.

On 55 minutes came the final try of the game when a grubber kick through some 30m out, bounced off a Harrogate player; was collected by Wirral and a pass inside to James Annetts saw him run in from 15m to score, the conversion was missed, 22-17.

The final 25 minutes were played with both sides seeking the try bonus point but the game was put out of Wirral's reach with a 70th minute penalty and to also deny them a losing bonus point.