Harrogate RUFC win derby clash at Ilkley RFC but are not yet firing on all cylinders

Rory Macnab and his Harrogate RUFC team-mates have made a positive start to their 2023/24 campaign. Picture: Gerard Binks
Rory Macnab and his Harrogate RUFC team-mates have made a positive start to their 2023/24 campaign. Picture: Gerard Binks

Relegated from National Two North at the end of last term, the Aces triumphed 27-17 at Ilkley on Saturday, a result which leaves them third in the North One East standings and unbeaten in three matches thus far.

That bonus-point success over their local rivals followed on from an opening-day victory at Driffield and last week’s draw with Heath.

And while ‘Gate’s director of rugby insists that he is pleased with those results, he believes there is still room for improvement.

"Any Yorkshire derby at this level of rugby, if you’re going away from home it is always going to be a tough assignment, so we’re just pleased to come out on top,” Wood said.

"I think that we deserved to win the game on the balance of things. We scored four tries, but we were still a bit hit-and-miss at times in certain aspects of our play.

"But, on this occasion, I think that was really down to how well Ilkley played when they came back into the game.

"Overall, I can’t be too dissatisfied with the start to the season we have made. To be unbeaten after three games is pleasing and I think we have done okay so far.

"But, there is a hell of a long way to go, a lot of rugby to be played and, as cliche as it may sound, we’ll just keep taking it one game at a time.”

A concerted spell of early Harrogate pressure told midway through the first half, fly-half Tom Steene ghosting over for a try that was converted by Rory Macnab.

Winger Ben Raubitschek then went over to put the Aces 12-0 up before a converted try before the interval, followed by a penalty just after it, brought Ilkley back to within two points of their visitors.

A Macnab penalty then made it 15-10 to ‘Gate before number eight Will Hill extended the away lead in contentious circumstances.

Having run through a number of would-be tacklers and powered his way over the whitewash, he was awarded a touchdown despite appearing to drop the ball in the process of grounding it.

Macnab added the extra two points, though the hosts again responded, grabbing another converted try to narrow the gap again at 22-17.

Harrogate would however have the final say, Steene kicking to the corner where Fijian winger Orisi Katalau was perfectly positioned to catch the ball on the full and round off the scoring.

"I think that we probably looked the stronger team for the majority of the game,” Wood added.

"Our pack were fairly dominant in the scrum throughout really. I thought that the forwards performed well for the most part.

"We played some good attacking rugby at times, but Ilkley came back into it and showed a lot of resilience.

"I think some teams might have gone under, but they didn’t, they scored a couple of tries and we didn’t have it all our own way.”

This Saturday, Harrogate travel north to tackle Alnwick, who have won one and lost two of their opening three fixtures.