Wharfedale kicked off playing towards the river before a crowd of 573. The first scrum went to Wharfedale and the possession gained saw a brilliant move left through five sets of hands with Bullough overlapping and kicking through. Unfortunately the ball was then knocked on, when a try seemed certain. A second knock on prevented another likely try and these unforced errors were going to prove costly. These minutes of pressure ended with the Greens holding on and a breakaway try being scored by Swatkins. A magnificent touch kick of some 40 yards by Blakeney-Edwards, not always his strong point, led to loose play from the line out by Tigers and from the scrum 10 metres out Walker broke from the base, fed McNab and then Bullough chipped through for Hamilton to score.
A period of Sheffield pressure followed with Swatkins dangerous from full back and Bingham, Wallace (adjudged to be Man of the Match) and Redfern-Brown in particular punching holes down the middle.
A Walker burst down the right supported by Hamilton was recycled left through many hands before the ball went into touch and shortly afterwards Cicognini dropped the ball with the line at his mercy. He was consoled by captain Dan Stockdale as a handling error by Oli is so rare! Wharfedale continued on the front foot and what will probably be one of the tries of the season, with a sublime flick by Moore to Will Smith, was scored by Hamilton, the last receiver. Unfortunately a missed tackle allowed Broadley to score just short of half time, although Blakeney-Edwards had time to kick a penalty to give the home side a slender lead. This was after the referee had marched ten yards further forward due to Tigers’ back chat.
Wharfedale made the worst possible start to the second half when they allowed Ireland to score on 41 minutes after a great burst by Liam Wallace. He converted his own try before kicking a penalty after an impressive forward drive had been stopped illegally. A fine try was scored by Henri Packard after he sold a great dummy. Ireland again converted. With 13 minutes to go, after intense pressure, the home side scored their third try through MacNab, but once again the bonus point try eluded them. A fine run and chip ahead by Hamilton had bounced into touch when a try could easily have resulted. Wharfedale hardly deserved to concede the final try by Hart, which was also converted by Mark Ireland, as the luck of the bounce went against them. It was little consolation that they finished on the front foot.
There is much to be optimistic about despite this disappointment. More of last year’s Colts made their debuts. The new recruits acquitted themselves well and there are signs that some of the injured are on their way back. It was not surprising that we were somewhat overpowered on the day when only eight of last season’s regulars started the match. Despite this, we seem to have recruited well.
Jon Feeley commented “The majority of the first half was very positive, our attacking play was strong and we put together some of the best phases so far this year. Our handling was accurate and we played at a pace that Sheffield found difficult to deal with. We should have come in another two tries up. The frustration was that whenever we moved away from the game plan and showed indiscipline in our approach, we gave them opportunities which they fully exploited. The start of the second half was a prime example when we gave away too many counter attacking positions and for once our defence did not work hard enough. The boys were bitterly disappointed in the changing room after, which I take as a good indicator of how determined they will be in training this week to improve.”
Final score: 18-34.
WHARFEDALE: – Bullough, Hamilton, Blackwell, Moore, Cicognini, MacNab (Lawn 76), Beesley (Dickinson 62), Stockdale, Altham (Patchett 72), Leacock (S Smith 53, W Smith , Speres, Brookes (Baldwin 53), Walker (Brookes 60).