HARROGATE SET FOR CHESTER TESTER

3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead,  Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Callum Irvine kicks for goal'Picture by Gerard Binks.
3rd Novenber 2012.'Harrogate v Birkenhead, Rugby Union.'Pictured Harrogate's Callum Irvine kicks for goal'Picture by Gerard Binks.

Harrogate team manager Graham Siswick has issued a rallying call for support ahead of their potential title decider at home to Chester on Saturday (3pm).

‘Gate leapfrogged Chester to sit top of National Three North after a bonus point 29-5 victory over Bradford and Bingley at the weekend.

Their promotion rivals only picked up four points from a win over Percy Park, meaning Siswick’s side drew level on points, but went top by virtue of having won one game more.

Siswick’s men now host the Cheshire side at Claro Road this Saturday and the manager urged Harrogate’s supporters to provide an uplifting atmosphere to bolster their title chances.

“It is a top of the table clash, it speaks for itself,” he said.

“It is nicely set up for us. It is going to be quite an occasion down there. We want to get a massive, vocal crowd.”

A five-point victory against the Bees last Saturday was Harrogate’s ninth win in a row and Siswick said his players are full of confidence ahead of the crunch match.

The manager said: “We have been focusing and preparing for this game for many weeks.

“The coaches have prepared us well and we can’t wait.The players are confident but their feet are on the ground. Everyone’s enjoying their rugby from week to week.

“We are in good heart. It is a huge game. The biggest of the season so far.”

Chester previously topped the table by 11 points and beat ‘Gate 30-19 at home earlier in the season. But their form has dipped in 2013 with only five wins from eight matches.

Siswick said: “They have lost three games and that’s not the form they showed at the start of the season. There might be doubts in their mind.

“It is up to us to get the initiative in the game and see how they respond.”

‘Gatehave a clean bill of health other than long term absentee Max Lewis for the game and Saturday’s man of the match Jacob Brady will make his 100th league appearance for the club.

Siswick pinpointed Chester’s backs as their main threat with brothers Rhys and Lloyd Hayes and full back Tom Foden, brother of England international Ben, key components.

He said: “We didn’t do ourselves justice in November and can play better than we did. We want to put the record straight.

“They have scored more points than everybody and pick up more bonus points. They’ve been winning by very big margins and that is down to their backs.

“They are a real threat.”

Despite terrible conditions on Saturday, Gate led Bradford and Bingley 12-0 at half time thanks to tries from Tim Heaton and Oli Denton.

Harrogate dominated possession throughout the game.

They had the edge over the much vaunted Bees pack in the scrums, made several big turnovers in the loose and had almost complete control of the lines-out.

Callum Irvine extended the advantage after the interval when he profited from an incisive run by replacement Mike Aspinall to score a fine converted try. The pair then reversed roles as Aspinall ran in the bonus point-clinching try.

The Bees struck a consolation try before Aspinall doubled his tally after a strong break by prop Dan Metcalfe.

Siswick praised the work rate of his whole squad against the Bees and highlighted the importance of his substitutes, Aarin Yorke, Sam Brady and Aspinall.

“It was awful conditions for the second week in a row but the boys adapted well and we bossed the game,” he said.

“There was some great work rate by the forwards and the margin wasn’t flattering.

“Captain Jimmy Browne has great leadership at the moment and the boys are responding well.”

lTurn to page 64 to collect a half-price adults admission voucher for Saturday’s game.