Wharfedale 39 Tynedale 5
It may have taken the Greens until the half-way point in the season to find some consistent winning form, but Saturday’s compelling six-try performance certainly augurs well – despite the two immediately testing fixtures to come – for a much better return from the reverse set of fixtures.
A powerfully destructive performance gave Wharfedale a third successive victory in a raw wind-tossed encounter at the Avenue where they demolished a doughty but out-classed Tynedale to collect a maximum fifteen points from those matches.
There was early promise of things to come with deft three-quarter handling, fluently orchestrated by fly-half Will Bell, setting up promising positions but the follow-up play lacked the vision to spot wide scoring space.
So though slow at first to capitalise on a strong wind advantage, as last week at Cambridge, three tries in rapid succession at the end of the half together with a penalty and two conversions by Tom Davidson gave the Greens a commanding 22-nil half-time lead. Once more Wharfedale seemed to have found the capacity for increasing the rhythm of a match when it counted and striking decisively when it mattered.
All three scores resulted from expert close quarter finishes by the pack, first by flanker James Holland squirming beneath a ruck, then both No 8 Rob Baldwin, fed neatly by Davidson’s short slip-pass, and the outstanding Steve Graham timing short finishing runs to perfection.
A further early bonus-point try after the break by Dan Solomi, exploiting the sin-binned absence of lock Graeme Dunn, halted any thoughts of a visitors’ revival. Although they did claim a rucked try by No8 Myles Scott after a brief period of attacking pressure, hampered by the injury loss of talismanic flanker Alistair Murray, they were unable to escape the stranglehold of an excellent all-encompassing home defence or meet the challenge of the destructive combination of powerful mauling and pick-and-drive play by the Green pack.
Wharfedale capped an increasingly confident performance with two clear-cut scores in the final minutes. First Holland – whose outstanding display meant Aaron Myers’ absence went almost unnoticed - was at hand to race clear for his second, converted by Davidson, and finally replacement Tom Barrett added a sixth try with an equally pacy sweeping finish to some slick first-touch three-quarter handling.
The excellent ball-carrying by the forwards, exemplified right from the start by the barrelling surges of Player-Coach Tom McGee, with a continual battery of pace and aggression supplied unremittingly through the game by Holland, Baldwin, Solomi and Quinn with rest of the pack in support proved the destructive cutting-edge of the victory.
Much to the undisguised delight of Chairman of Rugby Michael Harrison Wharfedale are scoring tries again – fifteen of them in the last three weeks. And just for the statistically-minded, that makes 48 in all at the half-way stage, equally shared at 23 apiece by the forwards and the back division (plus two penalty tries) – against the much more meagre total of 32 at the same stage a year ago.
But though the back-row all figured on the score sheet collecting four tries between them with surrogate flanker Graham grabbing another, the victory owed most to the excellent watertight aggressive defence of the whole Wharfedale side.
Nowhere does success breed success more than in confident defence. And on Saturday not only the line-speed mark-up but the number of individual tacklers rushing forwards to claim first-up tackles and halt Tynedale players (sometimes shudderingly) in their tracks was the hall-mark of a side with belief in each other and confidence in each other’s capacities.
The backs too played well balancing their game to the dictates of the windy conditions with some deft and secure handling both at the start and in carrying play upfield out of harm’s way after the break to set up finishing positions for the final tries. Bell once more caught the eye with his quick reaction time, sense of early space and prompt decision making.
His comfortable elevation after longish apprenticeship in the second team underscores the value of the Foresters who this week, also victorious over Tynedale, took brotherly love to new heights in fielding four sets of home-bred siblings in forwards Joe and George Altham, half-backs Harry and Jimmy Bullough, Lloyd and Rhys Davies, and Adam and Jim Mason.
Saturday’s victory lifts Wharfedale up to twelfth in the League, putting a bit more clear water between them and the third relegation spot and closing the gap between them and the low mid-table clubs above them. Just as importantly the fine performance gives winning momentum as the season enters in second half.
WHARFEDALE : D Hart; S Jordan, A Hodgson (T Barrett 71), T Davidson, S Horsfall (L Gray 66); W Bell, P Woodhead; T McGee (N Dickinson 60), S Graham (B Sowrey 57), C Steel; R Brown, J Quinn; J Holland, D Solomi, R Baldwin (Capt)
(A Allen 69)
TYNEDALE: W Massey; M Horrocks, C Harris, T Bramwell, R Sedgewick; M Outson, H Peck; A Harrison, D Cherry, D Dickinson; R Boyle, G Dunne; A Murray, G Beasley (Capt), M Scott
REFEREE: Greg MacDonald (RFU)