Another Tom McGee inspired performance saw Wharfedale earn 2 valuable points away at Ampthill. The Green Machine, playing their last game with McGee as Head Coach, worked tirelessly to achieve the result. Both sides scored 5 tries and the difference was only in the excellent kicking of Eliot Clements-Hill who landed five out of five conversions. Jamie Guy kicked well but just missed on three occasions, none of which was easy, with one of those hitting the post.
The afternoon started poorly for Wharfedale as missed tackles in midfield coupled with a strong burst into the line from winger George Elliot led to the number eleven crossing after two minutes to open the scoring. Wharfedale came back strongly and strong running from Cameron Hudson, Matt Beesley and Jordon Poole pinned Ampthill back into their 22. More pressure was applied and only mistakes from the Greens allowed Ampthill to escape and keep Dale out.
The afternoon then took a serious turn for the worse. As Ampthill progressed into Dale’s 22 the referee stopped the game as he realised something was wrong. James Doherty, the Wharfedale scrum half and captain, had taken an accidental knock and was in trouble. Medics were called and eventually Doherty was stretchered off and went on his way to hospital.
The game restarted with an Ampthill scrum, which they won, and then moved forward through six phases. Having pulled the defenders in, they created a massive overlap on the right and Clements-Hill scored.
Dale’s restart was effectively cleared again by Ampthill and Dale had a lineout on their own ten metre line. A good catch and drive was then sent right and a penalty soon followed for a high tackle. Ampthill number 8 Maama Molitika was shown yellow for the infringement.
Another good line out saw the visitors work the phases and a good break by replacement scrum half Jimmy Bullough created pressure and sucked in the defence. A long ball to Matthew van Sertima was just good enough to allow the winger time and space to cross to open Dale’s account. Jamie Guy’s attempt from 3 metres from the right touch line was just pulled past the post.
After a kicking exchange, Dale attacked again from a successful line out. Runs from Cameron Hudson and Jack Barnard and a deft chip from number 8, Rob Baldwin, pressed Ampthill back and forced another penalty. From the 5 metre lineout the Green Machine executed a perfect catch and drive and Matthew Beesley was awarded a try. Guy’s conversion meant that Dale had closed the gap to 2 points.
Costly mistakes by Wharfedale gave the home side valuable field position and Ampthill finished the half strongly with two catch and drives of their own, being rewarded with two more converted tries. Ampthill led 28-12 at half time.
Out came Dale in the second half and gave a fully committed performance. Dale attacked again from a successful line out on their own 10 metre line. Jordon Poole, relishing in playing in a green shirt, burst through the middle and placed a superb chip over the full back and was taken out. The officials saw no infringement and Ampthill were allowed to clear.
Wharfedale carried on mounting pressure and had another attacking line out. Ricky Cano broke from the maul on the blind side to touch down. Again Guy was close but missed another difficult conversion.
Ampthill now mounted an attack on Dale’s line and would have scored but for a try saving tackle from Jordon Poole. They were not to be denied however and after more pressure scrum half Kevin Barrett nipped through to score. With another kick from Clements-Hill Wharfedale were again looking at an 18 point deficit.
Heads did not drop, the travelling support got even more vocal and the Machine geared itself to even greater effort. With 20 minutes left Wharfedale resolved to leave nothing on the pitch and give McGee a good send off.
Dan Tai led the charge and forced a mistake from the Dale restart. Repeated infringements in the red zone led to a yellow card for Ampthill’s Ben Gulliver and soon the worthy Buck’s defence crumbled and Baldwin crashed over for a bonus point fourth try. Guy added the extras to bring the score to 35-24. There was still time for the great comeback.
Runs from Dan Tai and Poole took play deep into Ampthill’s 22 and a forward surge put George Hedgley over the whitewash. Guy’s valiant effort from the tee hit the post.
Dale sensed a historic win and attacked from the restart but were frustrated with a handling error and could have lost a bonus point as the reliable Clements-Hill missed a penalty from 45 metres in the last minute.
A’s players, management and supporters were all impressed with their visitors and they were warm in their praise of all who travelled south. They all wished Doherty a speedy recovery and ended the day by looking forward to a return visit next year.
There was indeed a warm reception from newcomers Ampthill and many comments about how they were looking forward to another long weekend in the Dales next season. It is early days yet, and a long hard road lies ahead to decide the outcome of the season. There is momentum in the team. There is growing belief from the faithful. There is Wharfedale!
The spirit shown against Ampthill cannot be measured, cannot be bottled and traded to other clubs. The spirit is there in the fact that players not involved on the pitch because of injury are prepared to travel and act as “water technicians” – TD and Woody doing a wonderful job. Also other players, past and present, were there giving moral and vocal support from the touchline. The Green shirt means a lot to these young men and so does James Doherty. The whole club wish him well.
Wharfedale H. Bullough; van Sertima, Hudson, Fewtrell, Tai; Guy, Doherty (capt) (J. Bullough 14); Cano (Altham 71), Poole, Steel (Wade 40), Hedgley, Willet (Powell 67), Beesley (Graham 77), Barnard, Baldwin (capt wef 14)