Preston Grasshoppers 22-35 Wharfedale

Wharfedale 2nd row, Elliot Stockton, commented after the game that “it was good to get another 5 points against a physical team. Hoppers challenged us at the breakdown and in contact areas but we dominated the set piece and secured our own lineout ball. This meant that good ball could be used by the backs. The back three, Verity, Davidson and Darwin, were exceptional as they had to deal with a lot of kicks. It will be important to get a good run up to Christmas to set the team up for 2024. As always, a big shout to the Faithful who travelled over to support us.”

The opening 15 minutes were a frustrating time as Wharfedale had excellent possession and field position but could not score. Hoppers defence pushed the ref to the limits but was never fully punished. Then the usual happened – a penalty, a Dale knock-on and a charged down kick coupled with some good play by Preston led to an unconverted try for the home side scored by Jack Lightowler. This had been Hoppers first visit into Dale’s 22!

This brief set back did not stop Dale’s ambition and with Sam Dickinson leading the charge they were soon back in Preston’s 22. From a penalty awarded for a deliberate knock-on Dale had an attacking lineout. 5 phases later Oliver Cicognini forced his way over to open the visitor’s account. Sam Gaudie slotted the conversion.

From the restart Dale dominated possession and territory again. With a brief interruption, and despite another deliberate knock-on, the Greens went through 26 phases which ended with a converted try for Rob Baldwin. The half ended with Preston on the attack and with a 5-metre line-out. The catch and drive was held up by Dale and having won the ensuing scrum the ball was kicked dead to end the half with Dale leading by 14 points to 5.

Dale started the second half with more attacking rugby and another Cicognini barnstormer saw him with Oliver Riddiough in support and he received the off-load to score Dale’s third converted try.

The Lancastrian’s came back into the match after another Dale kick was charged down and gave them some field position. William Hunt touched down and added the conversion to get Preston back into the game. They then narrowed the gap to six points with a penalty by Hunt.

Normal service soon resumed and another deliberate knock-on gave Dale a penalty kick which was sent into Preston’s 22. The ball soon ended up in Cicognini’s hands and with a dummy and dancing feet he slipped almost unnoticed through the defence for his second and Dale’s bonus point 4th try. Gaudie added the conversion.

Victory was sealed for Dale with a fifth try scored by Tom Beresford after a strong, direct run. Gaudie was again accurate from the tee. Preston finished the match with some good play of their own and were rewarded with a try from Samuel Townsley. Hunt converted and the faithful could retire to the warmth of the clubhouse.

Cicognini was the Star Man in the Rugby Paper, and deservedly so. He was a constant threat to the Preston defence with a combination of good feet and powerful running. The front eight played as a unit and tended to dominate the contact areas and the set pieces. It was heartening to see the line-out functioning properly. Elliot Stockton had another strong game and the rest of the back five seemed to be everywhere on the pitch.

Wharfedale: – Verity (Kaup-Samuels 24); Darwin, Coulton, Cicognini, Davidson; Gaudie, Riddiough; Dickinson (Altham 67), Wills (Collinson 67), Armstrong, Stockton, Hedgley (c), Pinder, Markey (Beresford 63), Baldwin (Green 66)

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