Carlisle just fell short in a very tight North Premier game at Harrogate, though a well-deserved losing bonus-point was some consolation in the 23-16 defeat.

The city side had beaten Harrogate 29-17 back in November.

Within two minutes a penalty from Jason Israel put the Cumbrians in the lead.

Carlisle continued to dominate the early stages of the half, and Israel made short work of another penalty opportunity inside 10 minutes.

Strong Harrogate pressure forced two quick penalties and the second one was kicked by full-back David Docherty.

Immediately from the restart, Carlisle extended their lead, as an attempted box kick was charged down by second-row James Brocket, who followed his efforts to the line to beat the scrum-half to the ball. Israel converted for a 13-3 lead.

Harrogate gradually eased themselves back into the game. Their left-winger Harry Jukes looked like he had serious pace, and on 24 minutes demonstrated that as he sprinted from the half-way line to go over in the left corner for their first unconverted try.

Then on 36 minutes, from a scrum on the half way line Harrogate moved the ball wide left, and their inside centre drew Carlisle’s defence to create space for Jukes to go over in the left corner again to level the scores.

Harrogate tried to turn the screw but the Carlisle defence held firm and the half ended all square.

Six minutes into the second-half player coach Matt Shields was adjudged to have deliberately infringed at a line-out, and given 10 minutes in the bin.

Harrogate made quick work of exploiting the extra man advantage, going over on the left from a line-out, for their third unconverted try.

Those were the only points Harrogate managed as the blue wall held firm until Shields returned.

Then out of defence, as Carlisle managed to turn the ball over, fly-half Grant Connon sprinted between the two 22s before being dragged down by the covering Harrogate defender.

The ball was quickly recycled and, as Carlisle pressed forward, Harrogate committed a penalty in front of the posts, giving Israel the easiest of conversions to reduce the gap to two points with just over 20 minutes to go.

Harrogate continued to press forward and only some desperate defending by Carlisle managed to hold the ball up, as the home side looked for their bonus point try.

Finally, from a scrum, they managed to create a little space on the right for one of their props to barge over to increase their lead to with a quarter of an hour left to go.

Carlisle gradually worked their way back into the game, with the forwards making some hard, strength sapping, drives in horrible conditions underfoot.

For the last 10 minutes Carlisle were looking for any opportunity to get over the gain line into the Harrogate 22, yet just couldn’t find the gaps to break through.