An eleven try thriller at the Avenue was served up by two sides that played enterprising rugby all afternoon. The visitors seemed to have the game won easily with 20 minutes to go and leading by 17 points. In the end they just clung on as the youthful Wharfedale side ran in two tries in seven minutes to set up a tight finish. It was the ability and pace of Sedgley that won them the game. The forwards going through three or four phases before the ball was sent wide and the pace of the backs was too hot for the Wharfedale defence. It looked easy but this skilful play was a testament to good handling, good lines and good changes of pace.
Park’s first unconverted try came from good work from the forwards and then the backs finding space on the left with Thomas Coe touching down. Jack Blakeney-Edwards put Dale on the scoreboard with a penalty.
Wharfedale got themselves into trouble when a wild pass went dead and gave Park an attacking 5 metre scrum. The scrum was won and three phases later Park again exploited space, this time on the right, for Leon Simpson to score, again unconverted.
Blakeney-Edwards levelled the score at 10 all with a well taken try and his conversion.
The Park backs set up the next try for Dan Openshaw who also added the away sides fourth try after a quickly taken penalty. Oli Glasse converted both to give the visitors a 10-24 half time lead. Credit to Park for taking these two chances but Dale again gave them space to exploit. Openshaw’s second try game from a quick tap and go from near half-way.
Stephen Collins crossed for Sedgley at the start of the second half to extend the lead to 19 points.
Then Dale hit back. The Green Machine started the ball rolling with a 30 metre catch and drive. Penalties followed and Blakeney-Edwards put the ball in the corner. A successful catch and drive led to a converted try for Dan Stockdale.
Dales resurgence was halted by a yellow card for George Hedgley and minutes later a very important, as it turned out, three points from Park’s Glasse.
Jamie Brookes burst through centre field and touched down for Dale with Blakeney-Edwards converting.
Jamie Brookes goes over
Park seemed to have again stemmed the tide with a converted Tom Ailes try but Wharfedale would not lie down and roared back into the match. After the Ailes try Dale dominated possession and territory for 17 minutes, going through 50 phases. They were rewarded with converted tries from Sam Gaudie and Rian Hamilton. Gaudie darted through from close range and Hamilton crossed when the ball was moved wide to the left.
Dale were frustrated in the last three minutes when Park, wisely and cleverly, went through the phases and ran the clock down. The game ended with a big pile up by the Sedgley Park bench. Confusion reigned. There was a lot of pushing and shoving but basically hand bags. The commotion partly caused by Park’s number 10 who took the ball and ran back 30 metres before booting the ball into touch. He did not do anything illegal but it was not really rugby at its best. Stephen Collins did apologise after the game and his reason was that he thought there were still seconds left on the clock and he wanted to make sure the match was over. After some discussion between the officials the captains were called and were told that no action would be taken as the match had finished and no punches had been thrown by either side. The referee pointed to the tunnel and the usual courtesies were exchanged in the traditional manner.
So, a frustrating day for the faithful but some enthralling rugby and many absorbing incidents to discuss over the Turkey and Christmas Pudding. The two points helped the cause and this performance needs to be replicated during the second half of the season.
Head coach, Jonathan Feeley, commented “Scoring so many points against the third placed team is a terrific effort, it underlines our potential as an attacking threat. However, we were obviously disappointed with the first half, particularly defensively where a 14 point gap to make up in the second half proved ultimately too great. But the improvement in specific areas of our game, such as the scrum and converting pressure in the opposition 22 into points, was clear to see and shows how this young group are developing. I thought the contributions from Jamie Brookes were terrific, he was a constant running threat. Joe Altham also underlined his importance to us with both a strong set-piece and running game. And despite moving to full-back early on, Jack continued to impose his influence with some great touches. We go into the Christmas break determined to keep improving and make a big impact in the new year”.
Wharfedale: – Rian Hamilton, Oscar Canny, Ben Blackwell (Louis Verity 23), Jonny Moore, Oli Cicognini, Jack Blakeney-Edwards, Henry Macnab (Sam Gaudie 47), Matt Beesley (Toms Asejevs 23), Dan Stockdale, Joe Altham (Sam Dickinson 60), Simon Borrill, George Hedgley (c), Jamie Brookes, Matt Speres, Josh Burridge (Matt Houghton 58).