Unforced errors and strong defense too much for Pythons to overcome
Harrogate Pythons welcomed high flying Leeds Corinthians to a wet and gloomy Station View for this promotion showdown. Corinthians started poorly kicking off directly into touch and from the resulting scrum Luke Price-Gerrard made good progress to win a penalty. A Corinthians clearance was charged down by Will Clough and Corinthians were penalised for offside. Rob Cooper stepped up to give the Pythons the early lead. 3-0 6 mins. Pythons were enjoying an early dominance in the scrum with Steve Smith, Sandy Dunlop and Nathan Wake driving the opposition backwards but in the tricky conditions, ball handling was proving difficult. Steve Lennox was driven backwards in the tackle but the referee spotted another Corinthians offence and Cooper doubled the lead with a well struck penalty. 6-0 17 mins. Corinthians stand-off was now finding his range with some clever tactical kicks which started to put the Pythons on the back foot.
A huge up and under was misjudged by full back James Audsley-Beck and was hacked over the line by the Corinthians centre. Clough appeared to have won the race for the touchdown but the ball squirmed clear and was touched down by Corinthians who added the conversion to take the lead. 6-7 23 mins. Pythons responded with strong carries by Matt Leach and Adam Challis but progress was halted by strong Corinthians defence. The Corinthians centre broke the Pythons defensive line and quick hands saw their winger score in the corner. 6-12 27 mins.
Price-Gerrard won a turnover ball at the restart but possession was spilled again and a big Corinthians clearance was knocked on by Steve Youngson. From the scrum Gareth Drane was penalised for a deliberate knock on and Corinthians increased their lead with a successful penalty. 6-15 35 mins. A good Cooper kick pushed Corinthians backwards and a Dunlop tackle dislodged the ball to win back possession. The Pythons went wide for Youngson to beat his man but he was then engulfed by covering defenders and play was halted following a clash of heads between Joe Bentham and a tackler. From the scrum, the Pythons went wide and Max Sharp timed his entry into the line perfectly to put Audsley-Beck over in the corner to leave the half time score Pythons 11 Corinthians 15.
The Pythons started the second period strongly with Leach, Dan Shortman and Lennox drives stopped by ferocious Corinthians defence. As conditions deteriorated several Pythons kicks went directly into touch and both teams struggled with the slippy ball. A Corinthians lineout was overthrown and taken on the charge by Dunlop and Cooper made good territory from the kick. However, Corinthians worked their way down the pitch and earned a penalty which was successful. 11-18 55 mins. Good lineout ball was taken by Shortman and after good approach play from Bentham and Clough, Wake carried forward and Corinthians were penalised under their posts. Cooper went for goal to reduce the deceit to 14-18. 60 mins.
The restart was knocked on by Drane but the Pythons defence remained strong with Dunlop and Price Gerrard making hit after hit. The Pythons broke out of defence with good carries from Wake and Grant Weatherston and Drane found a good touch. Ian Binns turned over the resulting Corinthians line out but Corinthians regained possession and kicked to put the Pythons back on their own line. The clearance kick by Cooper was charged down and a kind bounce allowed Corinthians to pick up and score by the posts. The conversion put Corinthians out of site at 14-25. 70 mins. With darkness descending, Corinthians closed down the game to leave the final score Pythons 14 Corinthians 25.
A bad day at the office for the Pythons who made too many unforced errors and simply could not find a way to break the strong Corinthians defence. Next week the Pythons face another tough challenge away at Hemsworth.