Dale left the frozen north to travel down to Gloucestershire for this battle of the basement. The overcast skies of previous weeks gave way to brighter skies and the Green Machine journeyed with greater hope and expectation. This was reflected in the way Wharfedale played. There was a sense of togetherness in the team. Ball won by the forwards was well used by the backs and then other members of the team were there to support and recycle the ball. Both sides played committed rugby and it was an effective driving maul that worked for both sides.
The early exchanges saw Wharfedale punished for any errors. Kicking from hand when awarded penalties, Cinderford clinically pushed the visitors back into their own 22. Cinderford No 10, Michael Wilcox, had a superb boot and used it effectively throughout the match.
After nine minutes Cinderford’s George Mills went over from a catch and drive to which Wilcox added the extras. This score seemed to spur the Dalesmen on. Rob Baldwin claimed the kick off and went on a charge. More green shirts joined in and the move ended with a touch back for a Cinderford 22 drop out. Again Baldwin led the charge and the ball was carried forward by skipper Josh Burridge. Cinderford’s defence held out until it was shattered by a break from Phil Woodhead. Will Bell was on hand to finish the move under the posts. Jamie Guy had no problems with the kick to level the score.
Perhaps the best move of the game, with crisp handling and strong support, led to Marcus Brown taking Cinderford back into the lead with a converted try. Dale finished the first half the stronger and a converted penalty try left the sides tied at 14-14 at half time.
A 20 metre catch and drive saw Howick awarded an unconverted try which nudged Dale in front just after the restart. Cinderford’s forwards scored two more tries, Brown adding a second unconverted try and Exeter Chiefs player, Jerry Sexton, re-establishing Cinderford’s lead with a converted try.
The Green Machine again finished strongly and was rewarded with another try from Howick. This left Dale trailing by 2 points and a last gasp conversion from the touch line was needed to draw the match and deny Cinderford 5 points. Up stepped Jamie Guy to coolly slot a superb conversion to make the final score 26-26.
Wharfedale coach, Tom McGee said after the game “There was a response needed after our last game and I felt overall we got it. We changed a few things around slightly in our preparation but the focus moving into this game was to be positive in our play, defend with urgency and aggression, go out to get the 5 points.
We got some pace into the game and although we were a bit loose with the offload on occasion we were positive, tried things, created line breaks and opportunities so I was pleased with our intent.
It was a really good game of rugby. I thought our guys raised their games significantly and had a real go. We scored a couple of cracking tries. There were some outstanding efforts, Harry Bullough, and Chris Howick particularly.
Credit to Jamie Guy, he had a few moments in his game but he stuck with it and the kick to get the draw in the conditions and under the circumstances was superb. Having James Doherty back with the group has made a massive difference and will have an impact on the remainder of the season.
Moving forward, there are 60 points to go for and we’ll be going for every one of them. We will continue to remain positive, play high tempo rugby and keep challenging ourselves to be as good a team as we can be”
There were many positives from this encounter for Wharfedale. Every player contributed and nobody gave less than100%. The line out was nigh perfect and the scrum solid. Will Bell, Jimmy Bullough and Josh Prell stepping in for the injured Hudson, Fewtrell, Labasse and Sertima were superb. The back row of Baldwin, Burridge and Howick were effective all afternoon with consistent tackling, bruising ball carrying and forcing turnovers. All five players who took up positions in the front row had outstanding games. Both hookers, Stevie Graham and Jordon Poole, worked tirelessly and their accuracy with the throw in helped the cause. Alex Powell had good moments and was only outshone in the second row by George Hedgley whose work rate was unbelievable. Then of course there was the return of the assistant referee, James Doherty, who is back to his best and has a thirst for action.
There were still mistakes in the first half. Six errors were costly but in the second half the ball was kept and possession not surrendered – and only one handling error!
The travelling faithful were heartened by this display and all concerned, coaches, management, supporters and, most importantly, the players know that this is a foretaste of good times to come.
Wharfedale: – Guy; Prell, Morgan, Bullough, Tai; Bell (Doherty 31), Woodhead (Bell 74); Steel (Altham 61), Graham (Poole 40), Cano (Wade 40, Cano 67), Hedgley, Powell, Burridge, Howick, Baldwin.
Replacement not used Hodgson
A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.