Two contrasting comments from a supporter of either side summed up this entertaining encounter at the Avenue. A Richmond supporter wondered how his side had got 5 points whilst a Wharfedale supporter wondered why his side had not won the game!
Richmond just deserved to win as they were more effective when they had possession. Dale squandered excellent chances to score in the first half and ignored two vital shots from the tee in the first and last minutes. Wharfedale refused to buckle, sometimes under intense pressure, and finished much the stronger and could have won the game.
Wharfedale opened the game showing the same attacking intent that brought them five tries in their last match. From the Wharfedale kick off Richmond’s clearance was returned by Rob Baldwin. Three phases later and Josh Prell came very close to scoring but the opportunity ended with a knock on and a scrum to Richmond. From the scrum Richmond again tried to gain territory with a kick but again the ball was returned and three phases later Phil Woodhead broke through and almost made the line. With Richmond caught off side a penalty chance was on offer. Three points were ignored and Dale went for the corner. The line out worked but the chance to score was lost with another knock on. Ten minutes had gone and Wharfedale were in dominant mood.
It took Richmond a further two minutes to score their opening try as they worked their way into Dale’s 22 and Alistair Lyon scored from the back of a rolling maul. Christopher Reakes missed the conversion.
The play then reverted to the earlier script. Wharfedale’s restart was kicked downfield by Richmond. Baldwin fielded the ball and set the Green Machine into attack mode. Camped in Richmond’s 22 it was Richmond who broke first and a yellow card awarded to Sebastian Adenrian-Olule for foul play.
A kick to the corner was followed by a clean line out which Richmond refused to defend. Quick work from Wharfedale saw George Hedgley break and score without using the rolling maul. Richmond protested but the officials paid no attention. Jamie Guy nudged Dale in front from the tee.
Mistakes then led to a second attack from the visitors and to Jack Allcock crossing and Chris Reakes’s extras giving Richmond a 12-7 lead which they held until half time.
Dale had two more chances to score. The first came from turnover ball in the visitor`s 22. There was a clear overlap but the ball was moved very slowly down the line and Richmond were given the chance to cover. A minute later and Phil Woodhead again broke through. An offload to Ali Wade saw the prop get very close to the whitewash. Again however Richmond just managed to scramble enough defence to save the situation.
Wharfedale had the better of position and possession but the more clinical work by Richmond saw them in front.
Dale started the second half in positive mood and a promising attack, led by Jack Barnard, seemed to have taken them up to Richmond’s 22 and gain a penalty. The touch judge was consulted by the referee and the penalty reversed and Rob Baldwin shown a yellow card!
Dale then handed Richmond a try as a defensive lineout 5 metres from Wharfedale’s line went horribly wrong and gave Matteo Zambruno an easy score. Reakes’ off day continued and the conversion was missed. The southerners built again and having won a line out 15 metres from Dale’s line they worked the ball through 15 phases before Zambruno scored his second and Richmond’s fourth. Reakes got a little closer with the extras but saw the ball bounce back off the upright!
The last 18 minutes were nearly all Wharfedale. With Baldwin back after his 10 minute rest it was time for the Green machine to go up a few gears.
Dan Tai, Jack Barnard and Phil Woodhead all had good runs and Dale had another 5 metre attacking line out. This time the non competing Richmond side had the benefit of the whistle and the attempted catch and drive was thwarted. A determined Wharfedale could not however be kept out and after a few more phases Matt Beesley crashed over the whitewash. Guy slotted the extras to give Dale hope.
With the crowd now fully behind the players the Green shirts ploughed on and on. Josh Prell returned the restart up to half way. Battle was now joined and the pressure was building. Again Richmond’s discipline broke and Ronald Mclean-Dents was shown Yellow for a high tackle. Two penalties later and Dale were on the 5 metre line. The set piece worked and the ball spun into the centre and Cameron Hudson rounded off a good afternoon’s work with a fine try. Guy’s conversion took Dale to within a point and a thrilling last two minutes.
The restart was taken by Wharfedale and ten phases later a penalty awarded. Quick thinking moved the ball into Richmond territory and another penalty within kicking range. This was not a day for reflection or deep conversations and a quick tap and run saw some grown men in the crowd shed a tear. The ref saw a forward pass and the game was over.
What a game! What a performance! Neutrals wondered which team was sitting on top of the division and which team was nearer the bottom.
I am not going to attach blame for not kicking the points. I might have shed a momentary tear when the final whistle went as a successful kick would have won us the game. It was a breathless game of rugby. Another brilliant performance by the men in green. Another point gathered. Another day when we can hope, we can pray, we can believe.
Coach Jon Feeley commented: –
“I was exceptionally proud of how we performed against the likely league winning team because we proved that we are capable of competing with the best in this league and have the fight to stay here. They were very efficient with a physical and effective game plan but were calling for the final whistle for the last ten as they struggled to contain our attack. The
manner in which we fought back was impressive and I am disappointed for the boys that we were left a point short. Our effort and willingness to use the full width of the pitch, identifying space is what we have focused on in the training week and are now showing it in games. I thought Woody was a constant threat and love watching him play when he is running at the fringes and getting in behind the defensive line. It allows our runners to have the greatest impact as Ali, Cameron and Beeso consistently did. We will be going to Plymouth with a clear aim.”
Wharfedale H. Bullough; Tai, Hudson, Hodgson (Allen 63), Prell; Guy, Woodhead; Beesley (Altham 41, Beesley 63), Graham (Stockdale 41), Cano (Wade 26), Preston-Routledge, Hedgley, Allen (Solomi 56), Barnard, Baldwin (c). Replacement not used J. Bullough