Pythons make it 5 wins on the bounce
Harrogate Pythons welcomed Halifax Vandals to a blustery Station View knowing the tricky conditions would make flowing rugby very difficult. Jed Carr kicked off and the wind carried the ball straight out on the full. Sandy Dunlop found Hugh Tatlow for clean ball at the first lineout and strong carries from Will Butler and Matt Leach drew a penalty from Vandals which Will Clough dispatched to give the Pythons an early lead. 3-0 6 mins. With Ollie Myers and Tim Evans coming up against a brick wall Vandals defence in midfield Vandals worked their way into the game and a well-placed kick was well defused by full back Max Sharp. A series of Vandals forward drives and penalties conceded by the Pythons led to a Vandals penalty by the posts which was successfully kicked. 3-3 15 mins.
A strong run from Steve Lennox gave the Pythons quick front foot ball and Clough found Dunlop on the blind side who switched to James Audsley-Beck who threw a dummy then drew the Vandals full back before releasing winger Harry Parrish to roar over in the corner. The difficult conversion was well judged by Clough. 10-3 20 mins. With Luke Price-Gerrard and Jon Pickard now on top at the breakdown and Butler and Steve Smith getting on top in the scrums, scrum pressure led to Clough stripping the ball from the Vandals No8 and Evans was judged to have been held up over the line. The Pythons, however, wasted the strong attacking scrum by being penalised for backchat. However Vandals failed to clear their lines and the ball went wide for Audsley-Beck who burst down the wing and put in a well-judged kick towards the Vandals line. Price-Gerrard won the race to the ball to pick up and force his way over. Clough’s conversion attempt came back off the post. 15-3 32 mins. The Pythons were now playing with confidence and from a scrum Sharp put in a kick which rebounded back into his hands, he accelerated away and threw a lovely inside ball to Audsley-Beck who raced away to score by the posts. Clough’s conversion made the half time score Python 22 Vandals 3.
Coach Dan Bird emphasised the strong wind would affect the second half but the Pythons were determined to gain the try bonus point. Vandals started the half well with a big carry from their No8 and possession for the Pythons was regained when Pickard chased and collected a wind affected clearance from Clough. From a scrum Joe Bentham picked out Evans who cut a superb line through the Vandals defence, but his pass under the posts to the supporting Carr was just too high and knocked forward. Vandals were now pressing the Pythons line and were kept at bay by a double tackle by Bentham and a good turnover by Ian Binns. The Pythons defensive line stood firm and pressure was relieved when Ed Challis ran out from his own line to be stopped just short of half way. The Pythons were now conceding too many penalties; the Vandals standoff took a quick tap and was stopped short by a Python who had not retreated 10 metres.
The referee had seen enough, awarding Vandals a penalty try and showing Tatlow a yellow card. 22-10 70 mins. Despite some strong drives from replacement prop Grant Weatherston, Vandals again forced their way towards the Pythons line and were awarded a 5m scrum. The scrum swung sideways and the referee ran to the posts to award the Vandals a second penalty try to leave the final score Pythons 22 Vandals 17.
The Pythons were disappointed not to gain the bonus point but were happy to secure the win in tricky conditions. They will be hoping to repeat their first half performance for the visit of Castleford to Station View next Saturday.