A very spirited match was just edged by the Lions despite Wharfedale playing some excellent rugby and matching the visitors in all phases of the game.
Early pressure from Dale went unrewarded and it was Leicester who took a 13-0 lead. Jamie Guy set the tone for the Greens fielding a kick from Leicester in JPR Williams style and almost setting up an attack but his offload went astray. It did not matter as the Lions scrum gave away a penalty and Jamie Guy sent the ball into the visitors 22. Another penalty followed and Dale were 5 metres out. A scrappy lineout ensued with a Lion getting to the ball first but Dale reclaiming it only for the ref to be stood with his arm out awarding a scrum for not straight. A great drive from the Greens at the scrum but the defence cleared. Robbie Davidson led the charge and the ball was taken through seven phases. With the Lions roaring for knock ons, forward passes the ref eventually gave one.
A couple of kicks from each side led to a Dale line out on the visitors 10 metre line. The Lions took the Dale line out and spun the ball (no shouts of forward pass from the Greens!) to left winger, Constant Devon. Strong running took him through two tacklers and beat the cover to open the scoring. Jonathan Boden converted and James Grayshon went on to add a drop goal and a penalty.
The split decisions were going the way of the verbose Lions and included the penalty which was awarded for tackling the man in the air. The lineout which led to the drop goal was awarded to Leicester. The third penalty could have been reversed for a silly act of foul play by the Lions centre but the ref just admonished him and warned him not to do it again! Law 4 10 l or m is just as strong as Law 10 4 g which saw Hedgeley dealt with later. Dale took these decisions with grace but the crowd were getting incensed. The home side was playing well but was trailing by 13 points!
Dale hit back and drove a Lions scrum back and won a penalty. The kick to touch was followed by a catch and drive from which Joe Altham broke to score. Jamie Guy added the extras. Another Boden penalty left the score 7- 16 at half time.
The same sequence was repeated for Dale’s second try in the second half with Josh Burridge getting the score. Guy added the conversion to bring Dale within two points.
With Dale sensing a victory they were punished by the referee who sent George Hedgley to the sin bin for a no arm tackle. A few phases later Drew Ruskin broke up to the half way and fed Jamel Hamilton who ran in unopposed. The conversion by Boden took the score to 14 – 23.
The Green machine pressed and pressed going through 31 phases of rugby after the restart with some poor defence under pressure from the Lions who spilled a kick ahead from Guy and then blew a chance to clear from a line out.
Wharfedale’s third try had a slice of luck that had been missing from Dale’s play. After the sustained pressure was ended with a dropped ball Lions countered and soon after the ref called advantage over they also lost control of the ball. Ian Larkin was on hand and two controlled nudges with his right foot sent the ball in to touch in goal. Speedster Harry Bullough just managed to ground the ball before it went over the dead ball line to give Dale a hard earned point with Guy’s conversion finishing the game.
Leicester Lions had a galaxy of “stars” but Dale were not overawed and could have, maybe should have, won the match. It was a joy to the faithful to see Dale’s scrum going forward.
Man of the Match was left winger Constant Devon. Not just for his brilliant solo try from half way but also for other skills. He caught a cross kick and immediately set up a dangerous attack. In a similar way he was first to the Lions restart and again clever use of the ball meant danger to the Dale defence. He was also busy around the park clearing out rucks and acting as guard.
There were outstanding performances from the men in Green. Joe Altham and Toms Asejevs brought great stability and forward momentum at the set piece. The back row of Rob Baldwin, Josh Burridge and Lewis Wilson again showed what a potent force they were. Alistair Allen showed much of his old class but showed some frustration at times. He was ably supported in the row by George Hedgley. Both Dan Stockdale and Ian Larkin were in evidence around the park and apart from a couple of not straights the line out was excellent. Jamie Guy had another solid game at stand off and all the backs were involved throughout the game, showing that they were a match for the star studded opposition.
Wharfedale Robbie Davidson; Ralph Wellock, Harry Bullough, Andrew Hodgson (Tom Davidson 52), Josh Prell; Jamie Guy, Will Lawn (Jimmy Bullough 41); Joe Altham (James Huck 74), Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 62), Toms Asejevs, Alistair Allen (Elliott Ward 38), George Hedgley, Rob Baldwin (c) (Alistair Allen 63), Lewis Wilson, Josh Burridge.
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