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Wharfedale 19 Macclesfield 5

November 22nd, 2013
Wharfedale, facing the only other realistic candidates for the final relegation place, earned what could turn out to be a crucial victory in their bid for an 18th successive season in National One. Though fiercely fought, the match was sportingly contested throughout, with the Avenue’s largest crowd of the season creating an electric atmosphere. The opening 15 minutes was all Macclesfield. They tore at the home defence, the forwards demonstrating impressive expertise at pick & drive, and were unfortunate to garner no more than a 5th-minute try by giant lock Dean Williams (the conversion attempt striking a post) from this spell of almost overwhelming ascendancy. The touch-judge signalled ‘foot-in-touch’ when winger Josh Fowles looked to have scored in the right corner, and minutes later referee Simon Harding needed his assistant’s advice before ruling a drive over the line ‘held up’. But the Greens somehow held out without further loss and, the siege lifted, mounted pressure of their own. They were themselves ‘held up’ when over the Blues’ line after eschewing a kickable penalty in favour of touch and line-out. When a second penalty chance followed, skipper Chris Steel pointed at the posts, stand-off Tom Barrett obliging with the 3 points (24 mins). Four minutes later Barrett slotted his second penalty, awarded, together with a yellow card, against visiting full back Matt King for deliberate slowing of the ball. Serious assaults on the home line were now rare, but the Blues almost regained the lead in the 35th minute when Fowles again dived over by the right flag. However, once again the touch-judge ruled that he had edged out of play en route. The half ended with a thrilling 40-metre break by Greens winger Lloyd Davies. He handed on to Barrett, who was hauled down close to the line. In the ensuing melee the desperate defenders conceded a penalty, which Barrett cleared for a 9-5 interval lead. Just as in the first half, Macclesfield began the second period on the attack, camping near the Dalesmen’s line for the opening 10 minutes – but well-organized resolute defence kept them at bay. Thereafter, the serious pressure was mostly from the home side. Barrett calmly slotted a fine 35-metre drop-goal (66) for 12-5. Three minutes later a ferocious drive for the visitors’ line was halted illegally, a triumphant roar from the crowd greeting the referee’s instant award of a penalty try. Barrett converted. Remarkably, those 10 points, effectively sealing the win, were scored while the Greens were reduced to 14 men by the carding of prop Mark Tampin. Greens flanker Chris Howick had been replaced by Adam Howard when Tampin was carded, but then returned to the pitch when the sin-bin period had been served. However, he lasted just 4 minutes before himself receiving a yellow (75), and the Dalesmen faced an anxious final spell. A converted try would mean an important bonus point for Macclesfield, who sensed the chance for what could be possibly crucial damage limitation. The Greens were equally aware, however, and tenaciously protected their line to the final whistle. So, Wharfedale’s fate remains in their own hands with 4 matches left – level on points with Macclesfield, and with a game in hand. The victory was unquestionably deserved. If the spirit and determination demonstrated is maintained for the remaining fixtures, a frustratingly erratic season could yet end happily. A remark from a visiting supporter, as he and his companion made their way to the bar post-match, is apposite: “Well, they just wanted it more than us.” Wharfedale: A Whaites (J Gough 75); L Davies, J Donkin, L Gray, S Horsfall; T Barrett, P Woodhead; C Steel, S Graham, M Tampin (C Howick 71), R Brown, R Rhodes, A Allen (J Mason 79), C Howick (A Howard 61), A Myers (T Wareing 75).  
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