BOTH Harrogate and Percy Park have a rich history after being founded within a year of each other in 1871 and 1872.
The two sides have played each other many times over the years but not since the formation of the league, and the last game was back in 1987.
Park had a good band of travelling supporters who had made the 90 minute journey to Claro Road. The foul weather predicted to arrive stayed away until after the final whistle, but a blanket of fog meant the game was difficult for players and supporters alike.
For the second week in a row, Park were involved in a colour clash, and this time it was the visitors who forgot to bring the change of shirts, or a full set at least, so with the generosity of the hosts, Park took to the field in blue.
Harrogate started the game at a ferocious pace which they maintained for the first ten minutes denying Park of any real possession.
The tone of the game changed when Steve Maycock was sin binned for Gate on 12 minutes, and Ash Smith slotted a penalty to give Park a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes later Harrogate had the chance to draw level when Park were penalised, but the Callum Irvine kick hit the post and bounced out. They did go level on 37 minutes with an Irvine penalty, before Smith kicked another for Park to go into the break 6-3 up.
The pea-souper seemed to be clearing a little, but the slight lift in the fog came back with a vengeance and for most of the second half it was difficult to see from one side of the pitch to the other.
Eight minutes into the second period, Michael Stephenson made a break down the left hand flank, and with the cover defence closing in he put in a delicate chip to the corner. Both he and wing Liam Blackburn set off in hot pursuit, with Liam winning the foot race to gather the ball on the line and go over for the try. The touch-line conversion gave Percy Park a 13-3 lead.
Gate came back on the hour and won a kickable penalty which they kicked to the corner. From the ensuing catch and drive, Park were penalised in front of the posts, and No.8 Brett Sylph, once a Harrogate player himself during his RAF days, was sin-binned, and Irvine took the three points on offer.
Smith then improved Park’s lead with a penalty which went in off the post, but on the restart Harrogate managed to regain possession, and Peter Wackett scored a fine individual try with a darting run through the visitors defence. The conversion by Irvine took Gate to 13-16.
Within a minute Park scored again with an excellent effort by wing George Lewis, who had come on for Blackburn. Ali Blair made a half break before setting the young Park winger off down the left. With only inches to spare he raced down the touchline, beating two covering tackles to go in at the corner for an unconverted try.
Harrogate were now outside losing bonus point territory, but they stepped up a gear and scored on 78 minutes when Park ran out of defenders on the left with Olly Denton rounding his man and going under the posts for the try, which Irvine converted.
Percy Park then played a period of keep ball, but the home side won back possession and kicked to touch inside Park’s 22. From the line out the ball went loose, and with the fog it was difficult to see what had happened, but a shrill blast of the whistle and the out-stretched arm of the referee indicated a penalty to Gate inside Park’s 22.
With six minutes of injury time, Irvine had the chance to snatch victory with the last kick of the game. It was not apparent at first whether the ball had bisected the uprights, but as it went dead, and the final whistle went, the jubilation of the Park players showed the ball had gone wide, and Park had won on the road again.
Harrogate remain in second place due the their higher number of bonus points, but have now lost three games in as many weeks.
Next Saturday, Percy Park take on Tynedale Raiders at Preston Avenue in the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup. The winners will meet Morpeth in the final in April.
PERCY PARK LIONS ... 42
DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK ... 24
THE Lions stay second in Candy Division 1 with this bonus point win over DMP. The tries came from Thomas Turnbull, Harry Thorpe (2), Ethan Wilson and Phil Morse. Simon Greetham kicked four conversions and three penalties.
PERCY PARK PUMAS ... 22
GOSFORTH FALCONS ... 0
PERCY Park’s 3rd XV stay top of Northumberland Blyth League and remain undefeated for the season so far. Park’s tries came from Ben Robertson, Matthew Dale, Michael Baker and David Sayers, with Dave Parfitt converting one.
Sadly the Marauders lost their game against MedicalsSerpents, with a mix up in communication. Medics had cancelled the night before, but then rang up an hour or so before kick off to confirm they had enough players, by which time the Park players had been told the game was off and had dispersed.