Wharfedale 29 Barking 3
It was rather like an over-delayed visit to the dentist: weeks of nagging agony replaced by relieved satisfaction as Wharfedale at last extracted a victory from this crucial home fixture.
It didn’t matter that to some extent it was rather a hit and miss affair against limited opponents, lacking the drama and tension of recent tussles – the outcome was all.
A sparkling opening and a powerful last-quarter finish were sufficient to give Wharfedale a comprehensive win against a disappointingly plodding Barking.
The victory after four successive single-score defeats with its bonus-point allows the Greens to exchange League places with their opponents and so lifts the home side out of the relegation bottom three.
No one in the Dales will mind that their side made relatively heavy weather of the middle period of the match in which they dominated territory and played throughout with attacking intent. The much- needed win was sufficient. The nerves settled. The relief palpable.
Wharfedale made the best possible start. Sweeping waves of attack from the kick off, some positive arrival at the breakdown followed by swift recycling of the ball resulting in centre Tom Davidson scoring a finely-worked try after only two minutes with a defence-splitting pass from Aaron Myers. And with Davidson adding a penalty to his own conversion Wharfedale were 10- up after only eight minutes rather conceding a 10-nil start which has been the pattern in recent matches.
The omens looked good as Wharfedale, showing an aggressive confidence lacking in recent weeks, threatened to overwhelm the visitors. But poor midfield final distribution in sight of the posts frittered away three golden opportunities. Luke Gray danced free within the twenty-two only for the pass to an unmarked Scott Jordan to go astray, overlap ball escaped and the try just refused to come.
But the visitors were at least condemned to perpetual defence with little opportunity or capacity for attack, and fly-half Chris Ashton’s penalty was a lone Barking contribution to a half that petered out disappointingly leaving Wharfedale 10-3 leaders at the break.
A similar fallow period followed the resumption but the Greens’ continued territorial dominance with excellent forward contributions from Ben Sowrey, Myers and Joe Quinn eventually produced the killer touch with three tries in the final quarter.
Frustration at further near misses eased on the hour when returning Captain Rob Baldwin (operating rather intriguingly from lock with Richard Brown retained at No 8 ) crashed over from a short tap-penalty. Davidson’s excellent kicking added a touch-line conversion.
A combination of growing self-belief in the home side and a tiring Barking defence resulted in Wharfedale luxuriating in full control and full-back Dan Hart arriving on the receiving end of a further Myers expertly-timed pass to extend the lead to winning proportions.
With Tom Barrett on at fly-half supplying some pace and movement and Gray moving out to the wing to replace the injured Simon Horsfall Wharfedale were beginning break loose. And with minutes remaining more confident waves of flowing attack produced a try for Gray with Davidson, as in the opening score, responsible for the both the break and the final conversion.
With the necessity for victory so paramount, the bonus point went virtually unnoticed.
Once again Wharfedale displayed the solid virtues of a determined and sustained forward domination even without the talismanic perpetual presence of Dan Solomi with the seemingly indestructible flanker nursing an ankle injury after an uninterrupted run of 87 matches.
Despite the scrums (a potent battle area for the Greens in recent weeks) being neutered for both sides by the crowd-irritating endless wait for the put- in – former hot-shot Rugby League referee Karl Kirkpatrick dispensed much quiet talk with seemingly little communication – Wharfedale dominated possession. Indeed they were so completely in charge that little was seen of a possibly powerful Barking eight.
The visitors’ backs too were rendered anonymous, reduced to the odd snaking run from eager winger Charles Broughton and a fleeting few minutes of unit action when the game had gone from them.
So it was no mean achievement for Wharfedale to so outplay the only side (until Saturday) mysteriously capable of halting run-away leaders Ealing.
Little things make a difference and the welcome return of Chris Steel, Quinn, and influential skipper Baldwin, with James Holland finding his feet nicely on the back row all adds to an already effective all-round forward unit.
And with a back-division showing more confidence and pace, and beginning to create clear-cut chances – and with three of then even getting on the score sheet the side is starting to look a bit better balanced.
One bite of the cherry doesn’t equal sustenance just as one swallow doesn’t make a winter but this victory could just be the tonic the doctor ordered to restore the appetite for success.
Tougher battles than this lie ahead in the next few weeks but one can’t overestimate the significance and value of this win.
WHARFEDALE: D Hart; S Jordan, A Hodgson, T Davidson, S Horsfall (T Barrett 54); L Gray, P Woodhead; T McGee (M Tampin 47), B Sowrey, C Steel (S Graham 72); R Baldwin (Capt), J Quinn; A Myers, J Holland, R Brown (A Allen 72)
BARKING: F Neale; C Broughton, S Flannery, A Henderson, C Jones; C Ashwin, J Gash; E Ambrose, M Bloomberg, T French; T Burns, T Davies (Capt); S Wood, S Reynolds, J Ngan
REFEREE: Karl Kirkpatrick (RFU)