A superb end of season match was just edged by Wharfedale. The first half ended even with both sides scoring three converted tries. Coventry took the lead in the second half with a penalty and Wharfedale claimed victory with a successful move from a five yard line out.
Dale set off playing some exquisite rugby. Dale showed their keenness to run everything when Coventry took the kick off and sent the ball deep. Maxime Labasse took the ball and set off. A minute later after a quick line out Oliver Cicognini swept into the visitor’s half, Andy Hodgson then created space for Jordon Poole to progress deep into the Coventry 22. Poole fed Phil Woodhead who opened the scoring. Jamie Guy added the conversion.
From the restart Labasse ran the ball up to half way and a strong charge from Rob Baldwin set up a ruck on the visitor`s 22. A trademark dart from Dan Solomi saw him scamper in from there and again Guy was accurate from the tee. It was Dan’s 60th try for the club.
Ten minutes into the match and it looked like Dale were the highly paid rugby players using the game as practice. Coventry did not help their cause with some indifferent tackling.
Coventry’s response came from the pack. This was only after another run from Labasse was spoilt when the move broke down and the ball was passed to a Coventry player. A penalty followed and after a good kick into Dale’s 22 a driving maul led to Matthew Price touching down. Matthew Jones added the extras.
A knock on from the restart set up the Green Machine on the Coventry 22 and more pressure on the Blues. A penalty was awarded under the posts but Dale were not interested in three points. 5 phases later the ball was lost and a grateful Coventry cleared.
More strong running from the Yorkshiremen soon had them looking to add another score. The pressure came from a Coventry kick which was run back. A frustrated Coventry bled two penalties and were soon defending their line. No catch and drive but patient build up and then a gem of an inside offload from Phil Woodhead put Cameron Hudson over for another converted try. The Green machine then spluttered and surrendered the ball from the restart. Five phases later Alex Woodburn had enough space to stroll over the line under the posts.
Two minutes later Coventry got the ball to Dominic Lespierre. A combination of speed and lax defence saw Lespierre cross the whitewash. Matt Jones slotting both conversions meant that the score was level at half time; 21 all.
Coventry had somehow managed to level the score with meagre possession or territory. John Sharp, Coventry Chairman, stated that Cov had only had 8 minutes possession.
The second half could not live up to the pace and excitement of the first half. A cracking attack from Dale led by Jamie Guy and Cameron Hudson was ended with a dropped ball. Good defence from the Green Machine kept Coventry out.
The Midlander’s best attack came from the only downfield kick from a green shirt. The visitors won a penalty in front of the posts and, not in the spirit of the game but showing a more clinical desire to win, Matthew Jones claimed the three points from the tee.
A scrappy period of play followed without either side able to break through.
A skirmish took place after 73 minutes but it looked more like handbags and the game had been played in a good spirit. This did not stop Ben Blain issuing yellow cards to George Hedgley for Wharfedale and Dominic Lespierre for Coventry. Surely there was only a communication problem between a Geordie and a Frenchman!
Wharfedale had just been awarded a penalty which was not changed and they won another soon after. The second one was driven by Jamie Guy for a 5 metre line out. Coventry were then hoisted by their own petard. In a similar situation earlier in the first half they had not defended the catch and drive and won the put in at the scrum. This time Dale were ready and a after good catch Josh Burridge drove forward himself and forced engagement before he crossed the whitewash to score. With 8 minutes to go Guy finished the scoring with a fourth successful conversion to claim a rare but deserved victory. A fantastic way to sign off after 20 years at level three.
John Sharp was actually and genuinely pleased for Wharfedale and he was sad that he would not be bringing a team to the Avenue next season. His sentiments were echoed by the Coventry President, ex England International Peter Rossborough, and all our visitors from the Midlands.
It has been a bleak season but for once jackets came off among the spectators and sunglasses were on. The conditions suited the spirit and manner of coach Feeley’s fifteen. This was a team effort with all the squad playing some good rugby. Rob Baldwin led by example and had one of his best outings for the club this season. Phil Woodhead, despite passing to a blue shirt occasionally, was again at his sparkling best. Alastair Allen returned to more like the tower of strength that we all know and was rewarded for his efforts by being named Star Man in the Rugby Paper. A chuffed Alastair’s only comment was “bugger; that means I’d better play next season”. George Hedgley and Josh Burridge were outstanding and Dan Solomi was back to his crowd pleasing best (there was a rumour that this was his 60th first team try (a rumour started by Dan himself and waiting to be corroborated). Hopefully we can get that up to 70+ next season! Jamie Guy had his best game of the season. 100% from the tee, good line kicking, good distribution and a couple of breaks! Cico, Labasse and Bullough were lively. Hudson had another impressive match helped by Hodgson (getting ever closer to 300 1st team appearances!) whose skill at creating space for others was again a feature. The front row quintet had a hard outing but were more than a match for Coventry away from the set piece.
We now wait for the new season with the usual air of anticipation and impatience. The air full of talk, usually groundless, of who is coming and going. We wish those who do leave all the best and our grateful thanks for wearing the green shirt with such passion. Adge from the balcony and Gordon in the programme have mentioned the need to continue support for the cause. Can I add my humble voice and remind us all that the Green will still be worn and the scenery will still be as fantastic.
Labasse, Cicognini (Morgan 59), Hodgson, Hudson, H. Bullough (Cicognini 68); Guy, Woodhead; Beesley (Altham 28), Poole (Stockdale 44), Cano (Beesley 53), Hedgley, Allen (Burridge 68), Burridge (Barnard 51), Solomi, Baldwin (c).
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A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.