Preston Grasshoppers fell to their third consecutive defeat as they were convincingly beaten 27-9 by cross-Pennine rivals Harrogate.
The Yorkshire club ran in four tries to secure the bonus point and kept Hoppers from crossing the line, restricting them to just a handful of penalty opportunities.
This is the second consecutive week that Hoppers have been unable to score a try and their lack a genuine cutting edge is somewhat of a concern.
With that in mind, head coach Garth Dew is looking to remain positive.
He said: “First of all, you can’t fault the effort of the lads and this really was a game when nothing went or way – the ref gave us nothing and the odds were against us from the start in this one.
“We are down four props, three backs – including one who dropped out last minute – and then we lose Jack Ward to injury and Reese Tomlinson to a red card in the opening minutes.
“But we were beaten four tries to none and we missed some kicks and didn’t convert our chances.
“The main thing that impresses me though is the spirit in this side, they are going out and playing for each other. While the injuries bring problems is nice to see lads like Harry Moulding get a chance and I thought Oga Mabaya was outstanding again – he’s stepped up to the first XV and made a big impression.”
Hoppers started this game well and looked to be in control of the opening exchanges, Harrogate had picked a big side to take on a young and inexperienced Preston pack but the visitors looked solid at the set-piece and made a few decent surges into the middle of the hosts defence.
The game then turned on the Tomlinson red card, after just 15 minutes as he was accused of a head butt.
Harrogate used their man advantage to score from the resulting line-out with Willem Enslin touching down.
If Hoppers felt aggrieved by the sending off, it was increased by Harrogate’s second try which did not look to be grounded and was awarded by the referee from distance rather than his assistant who was closer to the action.
Sam Bottomley, who scored, looked just as surprised as the rest of the players. Hoppers did get back into the game with a couple of Lewis Allen penalties.
But it was an off day from the tee for the fly-half who missed a couple of kicks at the start of the second half that would have brought Hoppers level and put the hosts under pressure.
However, it was not to be and another confusing decision allowed Harrogate to set up a driving maul and an equally strange penalty try gave them the full five points.
Hoppers can and should feel aggrieved about the result but they do need to regain that cutting edge which they certainly showed earlier in the season.
l Vale of Lune registered their highest points victory in North One West – beating Wigton 81-12.
That was their best since the 2010/11 season, when they rattled in 92 points in consecutive games against West Park St Helens and Kirkby Lonsdale respectively.
Vale ran in 13 trie,s which included hat-tricks from centre Rob Lamberton and skipper Sam Wallbank, eight being converted by Ben Dorrington as Vale moved up into fourth place in the table.