Strong defense key to Pythons win
Harrogate Pythons welcomed Rotherham Phoenix to Station View looking to kick start their season following the disappointing start away to Knottingley the previous week. Roared on by a big crowd gathered for Ladies Day. Matt Leach fielded the kick-off and tore into the large Roth pack who were immediately penalised for offside. A quickly taken tap led to good ground been made by Rich Paterson and Luke Price-Gerrard broke through to be tackled just short of the line. The clearance was well returned by Harry Parrish and the pressure was increased by a probing kick from Jed Carr. Gate turned over the lineout and Roth were penalised to allow Will Clough to open the scoring with a well struck penalty. 3-0 4 mins. The Roth restart kick went straight into touch and from the Gate scrum, James Audsley-Beck broke the defensive line, drew the full back and put Parrish over out wide. Clough added the extras. 10-0 6 mins. Big drives from Nathan Wake and Dan Harland reapplied the pressure but the ball was turned over and Roth kicked clear. The kick flew over Ollie Wheatley’s shoulder who knocked the ball backwards but the Roth winger managed to get a boot to ball and just beat Jake Harland to pick up and score by the posts. 10-5 10 mins. In response, Will Butler set up a ruck and Roth were penalised for going over the top, but this time Clough dragged the attempt wide.
Then from an attacking scrum, Roth kept possession well before drawing a penalty by the posts. 10-8 17 mins. Price-Gerrard turned over the restart but Audsley-Beck was taken out by an offside Roth forward who received a yellow card. Hugh Tatlow took the lineout and Dan Harland crashed the ball forward. Quick ball and a great line by Carr saw Carr jink over by the posts. 15-8 22 mins. Again Roth took the game to Gate but a big tackle from Dan Shortman knocked the attacking player backwards. Gate were penalised for offside and from the attacking lineout Roth applied a catch and drive to score out wide. 15-13 28 mins. Some good carrying from Matt Leach and Sandy Dunlop setup up an attacking ruck 5m out and Clough popped the ball blind for Tatlow to crash over. Clough increased the lead with a well-struck conversion to make the half time score Pythons 22 Rotherham Phoenix 13.
Roth started the second half in determined fashion, pushing the Pythons further and further back. An attacking Roth lineout was turned over but the clearance saw the Roth No10 jink his way towards the line. He was tackled just short and Dan Harland received a yellow card. Roth called for the scrum against the 7 man Gate pack, but the drive was repelled. The Roth pack battered the Gate line, but there was no way through as the Gate defence refused to be breached. Roth went wide but their winger was smashed into touch by Clough. The pressure lasted for 20 minutes until a Roth mistake allowed Audsley- Beck to clear. Roth came back but a strong tackle from Adam Challis won possession allowing Liam Kernoghan to clear the danger. Then from a scrum on half way Gate spun the ball wide to Parrish who made good ground before a Leach carry and Carr picked up to dart in under the posts. Clough again added the extras. 29-13 74 mins.
A strong carry from Price-Gerrard led to a Gareth Drane kick into the corner. Roth showed their frustration when one of their forwards received a yellow for mouthing to the referee. A Roth clearance was well kept in by Wheatley for Parrish to make good ground before a Kernoghan dummy put him in the clear to be stopped by a desperate tackle by the line to leave the final score Pythons 29 Rotherham Phoenix 13.
This was a much-improved performance from the Pythons and Coach Dan Bird will be particularly pleased with the improved lineout and the impenetrable defence shown in the 3rd quarter. Next week the Pythons face a difficult away fixture at Halifax Vandals.