Blaydon came off the pitch worthy winners after this battle of the northern clubs. With both clubs desperately needing a win it was the visitors who showed superior control of possession and territory to run out worthy winners.
Wharfedale started brightly and had a line out 10 metres from the Blaydon line. The line out was won but Blaydon players were allowed to slip their bindings and work themselves into a position to spoil Dale’s possession. Blaydon held the drive and cleared their lines. It was then Blaydon who had the upper hand for the next 20 minutes and every attack gained three points or more.
Surprisingly it was Dale who had the edge in the scrum but they could not turn this to their advantage. Blaydon’s defence was good enough and stayed strong all afternoon. The Green machine won all their own put ins and reduced the north-easterners to a meagre 60% of their scrums. The other set piece, the line out, still caused problems for Dale. Another problem for Wharfedale was the inability to string sufficient phases together to break the resolute Blaydon defence. When the ball was spread wide there was a sense of panic in the play and long slow passes often caused more problems than success.
Newcastle Falcons player, Brett Connon, opened the visitor’s account with two penalties. Newcastle Falcons player, Will Witty, ran a great line to extend the score bursting through an otherwise strong Wharfedale defence to cross the whitewash. Connon added the extras to give Blaydon a 13 point lead.
Wharfedale got back into the game with a splendid catch and drive from just outside Blaydon’s 22 with Chris Howick being awarded the touch down. Guy just missed from the tee.
Connon added another penalty after 31 minutes to which Guy responded 3 minutes later. Blaydon ended the first half with a Jason Smithson try when he broke from a rolling maul to crash over. Cannon failed with the conversion.
Dale started the second half strongly. From a Blaydon scrum on half way they won the ball against the head and moved the ball right. The backs swept forward, and when they were held the forwards kept the momentum going. Dan Tai then collected a superb cross kick from Jamie Guy to score an unconverted try.
Wharfedale attempted to build but were again let down by handling errors.
Connon slotted another penalty before Wharfedale had a strong passage of play. Will Bell put a delicate chip ahead and then hacked on past the defence. Rhodri Adamson escaped with only a yellow card when he cynically took Bell out. Ten frustrating minutes followed as Wharfedale failed to add to their tally. In a reverse situation last week against Esher Wharfedale surrendered 22 points!
It was Connon who finished the scoring with another well taken penalty bringing his total points for the match to 17.
The man of the match award went to William Witty although two other Falcons players Callum Chick and Brett Connon were a possibility. The fourth Newcastle Falcons player in the starting line-up for Blaydon was Zach Kibridge. He was up against the only dual registered Yorkshire Carnegie player in the Wharfedale starting line-up, Dan Tai, and the two players were a good match.
A reflective and disappointed Wharfedale coach commented after the match “For a game of this magnitude our team performance wasn’t good enough. That’s not how I or we want to play rugby. It’s nothing I haven’t said to the players, and they haven’t said to themselves. We need to be honest with ourselves about that.
I believe that we need a bit of toughening up of attitude, understand what it takes to be a consistent performer at this level, a Wharfedale player, and what it’s going to take to kick on.
The talent and ability is here – the guys need to have the confidence and belief to go for things, to simply work harder in training to improve, and in their individual game day prep. You want to give yourself the best chance to be at your best every time you play.
This was a game where we felt we could lift the speed, quickness, move the ball and catch Blaydon on the outer channels.
However the urgency in defence, movement of the ball in our attack and game awareness where there were consistent opportunities to be positive, wasn’t where it needed to be.
Although we competed well in the scrum against a good team, we struggled to impose any periods of quick, precise sequences of attack or field position which played into Blaydon’s hands.
The whole group, coaches included, need to reflect critically and honestly, look forward positively with clear direction and collective buy into how we can improve our game to get the best out of ourselves, win these 1st halves, and turn performances into wins”.
There were good individual performances at times. Phil Woodhead made promising breaks and there were strong runs from Fewtrell, Sertima and Morgan. Too often the player was not supported or the attack was halted by a flamboyant pass that went astray. The forwards also strove manfully and put in an immense amount of work. Before the game the aficionados were talking about the Blaydon pack and how it was one of the strongest units in the division. If this was the case the tight five were magnificent in their domination of the scrum.
It was a pity that this level of power, skill and concentration was not translated to elsewhere on the pitch.
Wharfedale: – Labasse; Fewtrell (Guy 68), Van Sertima, Morgan, Tai; Guy (Bell 52), Woodhead; Steel (Wade 56), Graham (Poole 52), Cano (Beesley 73), Hedgley, Willet (Howick 17), Powell, Burridge, Baldwin.