Wharfedale 22 Cinderford 8

November 22nd, 2013
This thoroughly deserved victory is vitally important for Wharfedale in their fight to preserve National One status. But it was not just the 4 league points – which maintained the narrow gap separating them from the relegation places – that gave cause for celebration. It was the manner of the triumph. Against a good, fast-running and combative side, Wharfedale dominated the game. In consigning the disappointment of the previous week’s heavy defeat at Ealing to history, the Dalesmen gave their nervous fans reasons for optimism that the team can cope with what will inevitably be a tense end to the season. With 7 matches remaining, and 2 of the 3 relegation places probably already filled – Sedgley Tigers and Cambridge would require an unlikely run of results to survive – it now seems that the final ticket to the National Two regional divisions could well go to one of Macclesfield (currently on 43 points), Wharfedale (47) or Tynedale (48). The Greens have fixtures against both the other main contenders in April. Wharfedale had to make a late change to their backs line-up when Luke Gray was forced to cry off. Peter Lucock, making his first appearance for the club, moved from the left wing to outside centre, with Simon Horsfall taking the wing slot. The welcome return of club skipper Chris Steel at prop, after a long injury absence, allowed Adam Howard to take injured lock Richard Brown’s place in the second row. The pattern of the game was established early. The home forwards took immediate charge of the first maul, pushing the Cinderford pack back some 15 metres, and continuing pressure forced a 3rd-minute penalty, confidently converted by Tom Barrett. The Greens’ pack maintained a decisive edge throughout the match, frequently gaining ground in mauls, and disrupting a number of the visitors’ set-pieces. The opening 10 minutes were played out in the Foresters’ half, Barrett clearing a second penalty for 6–0. Visiting stand-off Mark Davies got his side on the scoreboard with a penalty (13) earned in an isolated Foresters trip into the Wharfedale half, but the Greens then dictated play up to the interval. Barrett had 2 further penalty shots – just short on the first from 37 metres, but clearing the next, on 25 minutes, from a tad closer to the posts. Five minutes later he sent a long penalty to touch, the line-out setting up a controlled maul that eased No 8 Aaron Myers over the line for a try and a 14-3 half-time advantage. Although Cinderford upped their game after the break, making their hosts work hard for further points, only rarely did they seriously threaten the home line. Their try (68) when flanker Robert Langley rounded off their only meaningful pressure of the half with a robust charge to cross in the left corner was reward for admirable endeavour, but by then the result had been effectively sealed. Barrett’s 4th penalty (47) was followed 5 minutes later by a splendidly constructed try for Horsfall, finishing in the left corner. The move was initiated by Myers from the base of a solid scrum. Scrum-half Philip Woodhead made telling ground before feeding Barrett who split the defence with an arcing run to create Horsfall’s chance. While undoubtedly the main difference between the sides on the day was in the forwards, this was an all-round, confidence-boosting team performance. With another home fixture upcoming, against Old Albanians (who ran league leaders Ealing very close on Saturday), the club will be looking for this timely resurgence to be maintained. Wharfedale: A Whaites; L Davies (J Gough 57), P Lucock, J Donkin, S Horsfall; T Barrett, P Woodhead; C Steel, S Graham (I Larkin 68), M Tampin (N Dickinson 72), A Howard, R Rhodes, A Allen (J Mason 51), D Solomi (T Wareing 30–40), A Myers.  
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