On a wet and moderately windy day in the Midlands the Green Machine were given a lesson in how to control possession and dominate territory by mixing phases of play. The students sometimes went through 20 phases of play before either surrendering possession or scoring. The latter they did five times with a combination of forwards and backs.
Statistics do not give a fair reflection of the score as Wharfedale were 100% on their own line out and indeed went beyond this and allowed Loughborough meagre possession from this set piece. In the scrum the Green Machine were dominant all afternoon and caused the home side problems on their own put in. Mistakes were costly. Most notably three long kicks by Loughborough were fumbled and valuable field position squandered. Handling errors could have been caused by the wet and windy conditions but the ball seemed to be a lot drier when handled by the Midlands team.
Dale started brightly and were three points ahead from a Jamie Guy penalty. This was cancelled out two minutes later when William Edwards replied from a similar angle and distance. The penalty was seemingly needless as Dale had just won a scrum against the head and were working the ball clear until careless clearing out at a ruck was penalised by the ref.
Dale were soon on the attack but a kick ahead was first charged down by the Loughborough defence and then hacked clear. Dale’s next attack was a strong break by Rob Baldwin. Lack of close support saw him then throw a hopeful pass into space which was not taken cleanly and another promising move fizzled out. These were two moves that typified Wharfedale’s day. On another day they might have ended in tries but this was not the day.
Playing into the breeze however Dale shared the honours in the first half and were only trailing by a converted try from George de Cothi. A lovely dummy from the scrum half created space for him to nip over under the posts.
The first half ended with Loughborough attacking Dale’s line and Josh Burridge in the sin bin for a technical offence in the red zone. If Loughborough’s line out had worked they might have scored but they messed up one from 5 metres and Dale stole two more before oranges.
Rotimi Segun, Paolo Odogwu, twice, and Andrew Boyce scored unconverted tries in the second half for Loughborough with Dale’s Chris Howick crossing for an unconverted consolation try. The pick of the student’s tries was the first one.
A clever kick down the line out of defence from Matt van Sertima was gathered by Loughborough and then ran back with speed and directness. This was coupled with excellent handling and support to put Segun over in the left hand corner. Simple, effective rugby reaping rewards.
The last try was evidence that the students were finishing much the stronger. A line out on Dale’s 22 was driven over the whitewash at a canter!
Dale could have come back into the game after Howick’s try in the 54th minute but a yellow card handed to Will Bell for foul play after 59 minutes gave Loughborough the opportunity to score two more tries and put the game out of reach for the northerners.
On a bright note the pack must be congratulated for their work at line out and scrum.
Tom McGee commented “If we reflect over the last three games we’ve made it hard work through not executing control and nailing basic skills, losing our way within games. We are doing very well in parts of our game and are a threat to everybody we play in this division.
I have to be honest, our concentration levels, and rugby core skills are hurting us and hugely frustrating for everybody. The guys’ attitude is fantastic, the training through the week is spot on but when it comes game day we are lacking that clinical and mental edge for 80 minutes.
We defended fantastically well for the 1st half, against the elements. Again, frustratingly; but in the second half, as per Rosslyn Park, we could not get a strong foothold early doors. In losing field position or with losing possession from dropped catches, defending in the back field and exiting our third, we need to keeping working hard in practice until we get it right, which we will.
What is clear is that we are missing James Doherty, not his technical play at scrum half where I feel Harry is doing real well, it is more what he bring to a game in terms of energy, direction and sheer blooded competitiveness.
The immediate challenge for us is to find that cutting edge, spark, attention to detail over a full game – and when it’s not working or our opposition have the swing, stepping up, having clear direction from our leaders with everybody doing their basic roles well for the team.
We know we are in a tough spot, but I know the players, the management and the club have absolute confidence that we’ll collectively fight our way through this tough period.”
Wharfedale: – Bullough (Fewtrell 56); Prell, Hudson, Morgan, van Sertima (Fewtrell 38 – blood, Van Sertima 40 – blood reversal, Skelton 66); Guy, Skelton (Bell 56); Altham (Beesley 61), Stockdale, Steel (Wade 61), Willet, Hedgley, Burridge, Howick (Whyte 70), Baldwin.
A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.