The meaning of Chester is “walled town” or “fortress”. Dale seemed to have breached the walls but, as in many previous visits to Hare Lane, a refereeing decision took the win away from the Green Machine and handed it to the home side. This was another entertaining game and well worth the two-hour trip in rain/ sleet and snow. The inclement conditions abated in time for kick-off and the game match was played, on the 4G pitch, in very cold but, thankfully, dry and windless conditions.
The first few minutes saw both sides attempting to kick for position and after 7 minutes a Chester kick was not fielded cleanly and ended up being reclaimed by Gethin Long who raced for the line to open Chester’s account. Dale then gave up territory when another Chester kick was knocked-on in Dale’s 22. The home pack won the scrum and on third phase ball winger Harrison Vare ran a superb line and split open the defence to touch down. Both tries were unconverted but Chester had established a 10-point lead and Dale had hardly put a move together.
Wharfedale then responded. Dale very quickly regained possession from the kick-off. Sam Gaudie took play into Chester’s 22 and the recycled ball was spread left. Rhys Green moved the ball to Harry Bullough who passed to Oscar Canny. Canny then slipped the ball inside to Bullough who gave the scoring pass to Ryan Carlson. No conversion but great accurate rugby and really good to watch.
The second try was another beauty involving forwards and backs. Dale were awarded a rare penalty on their own 10-metre line and Robbie Davidson found touch on Chester’s 22. A successful line-out was followed by a defence shattering run from Rob Baldwin. Seven phases later the ball was sent through the hands and room was made for Canny to squeeze over for a try. An excellent touch-line conversion from Davidson took the visitors into the lead. Penalties now started to mount against Wharfedale given by “an ever-alert referee who was quick to penalise transgressions, some clearer than others” (Chester Match report). One of these apparent misdemeanours allowed Liam Reeve to put three points on the board to take Chester back into the lead.
More infringements saw Dale pushed back into their 22 but then the tide turned and Dale had a relieving penalty in their 22 only 10 metres from their line. Wise old heads may have kicked to touch to escape danger….the wisest and (maybe) the oldest head on the pitch had different ideas and took a quick tap and set off. Baldwin set off and, like a battering ram coming up against a weak door, barged out of the 22 and up to the 10-metre line. Another penalty gave Dale a line-out on Chester’s 22. The successful line-out was moved along the backs on first phase and Josh Walters ghosted through the defence, the probable scoring pass was however not taken cleanly and Chester went in at half time still in the lead.
The second-half saw Dale being penalised and getting the dreaded warning from the referee. Reeve capitalised with another accurate penalty kick. Two infringements later George Hedgley was shown a technical yellow card for accumulative team offences. The second penalty gave Chester an attacking line-out on Dale’s 22. Six phases later good handling ended when prop, Tom Furnival, touched down in the corner for an unconverted try.
Dale struck back with a Robbie Davidson try. Wharfedale’s line-out set up good possession and three phases later a Gaudie pass was collected by Davidson whose great run saw him score. The successful conversion closed the gap to two points.
Davidson then stepped up again to take Dale into the lead with a penalty kick from 26 metres. Both sides missed a penalty kick before the final moment of madness, Dale knocked-on in their 22 to give Chester a platform. The scrum won, Chester attacked but Dale grabbed hold of the ball carrier and held him up and the surrounded him waiting for a decision. After an age the maul went down and the faithful expected the final whistle…….No, the referee was standing there awarding Chester a penalty in front of the posts!!!!
Another super performance from the Greens but only a point to take back to the Avenue. A great team effort but there were significant individual performances as well. Robbie Davidson put on the number 10 shirt and had a very promising game contributing 12 points. Rob Baldwin was playing with the verve, enthusiasm and skill that saw him being dragged off to Headingly a few years ago. New boy, Josh Walters, was involved throughout the match and showed good pace and lots of ability in attack and defence. Sam Gaudie proved to be a handful for the Chester defence whilst all players gave performances worthy of wearing the green.
All at the Avenue, and the good folk from Chester, wish Ben Wright, who came off in the 10th minute with a serious injury, all the best and a speedy recovery.
Wharfedale Bullough; Hodgson, Prell (Bullock 65), Walters, Canny; R. Davidson, Gaudie; Beesley (Altham 40), Wright (Green 10), Dickinson (Beesley 70), Carlson, Hedgley (c), Baldwin, Speres, Burridge Replacements not used Stockton, Macnab Travelling reserve Fawcett.
Photos of Saturday’s 1st XV #Nat2N match against @RUFCChester are available to view and download at https://www.flickr.com/photos/128183691@N04/albums/72177720304364392
Lower quality images can be found at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1323487221736874
Thanks as ever to TeamBurridge for doing this week in, week out!