Wharfedale 53 Middlesboro 3
This Yorkshire Cup second-round tie was the mismatch which had been feared: on the one hand, the home club, ambitious to regain the Cup, had luxuriated in its freedom from relegation worries by naming a strong squad, while the visitors, still in with a chance of a play-off place at the top of North East One, had their eye on matches still to come.
In the end, the class of the National One side was just too much in every department for the visitors, who play their rugby three divisions below.
Not that this was obvious in the early exchanges. Middlesbrough took advantage of the Greens’ early misdemeanours to get into range, and full-back Bircham gave them the lead with a penalty goal. But apart from a few skirmishes on the Wharfedale line before half-time, the visitors were always on the back foot, repeatedly outmuscled up front and badly outpaced behind.
Despite the Greens being reduced to 14 men after Richard Brown’s yellow card in uniquely bizarre circumstances, the die was cast in the 13th minute when after the visiting scrum had disintegrated for the second time referee Lazenby went under the sticks for a penalty try.
Two minutes later, flanker James Holland, the outstanding forward on the pitch, scored the first of his two tries, and Tom Barrett had added a third to make the half-time score 24-3, Tom Davidson having added two conversions.
The second half saw more of the same, punctuated this time by the visitors’ indiscipline which the home spectators considered to be lightly punished with a solitary yellow card.
Wharfedale rang the changes on the pitch, eventually populating the back division exclusively with players more normally seen with the Foresters, but without any reduction in the speed or intensity of the side: indeed James Druce proved too hot to handle for his three-minute brace, sandwiched between tries for James Gough and Lloyd Davies; but it was first-teamer Richard Rhodes who had the honour of finishing the best move of the match.
Lloyd Davies added two conversions for a final scoreline which merely sums up the problems of keeping up the standards of this ancient competition.
Wharfedale: Tom Davidson, James Druce (Dan Solomi 74), Tom Barrett (Simon Crabtree 58), Lloyd Davies, Simon Horsfall (Russ Aldersley 58), Will Bell, James Gough; Neil Dickinson (Tom McGee 58), Steve Graham (Dan Stockdale 58), Mark Tampin (Adam Mason, 41), Richard Brown, Richard Rhodes, Jim Mason, James Holland, Rob Baldwin (capt) (Rhys Davies, 41).
Referee: Simon Lazenby