An outstanding first half performance by Wharfedale was enough to see them achieve a valuable four points and move out of the relegation zone. Two things happened in the second half to almost see Chester secure an amazing comeback. Dale seemed to lose their game plan and the Chester substitutes made their attacks much more effective.
Chester had an early penalty shot from 43 metres but it was Dale who started the game at an electric pace and only some loose play seemed to stop them crossing the whitewash.
Dale’s first possession from a successful line out saw Barrett running at the defence and the move was only stopped by a high and no arms tackle which saw Chester’s full back, Sean Green, being shown yellow.
The next attack, following a Tom Davidson turnover, was halted when Joe Altham became isolated and a penalty awarded to Chester. If there were points to look at this was one. With good control of the ball and only on second phase why was a ball carrier allowed to get isolated?
A second turnover a few minutes later led to a Wharfedale penalty and a superb kick from Barrett gave Dale a 5 metre line out. The catch and drive was successfully defended by Chester who gratefully cleared to their own 22.
Dale attacked and attacked but only poor execution stopped them from opening their account. Chester were more than happy to clear their lines and wait for the next attack.
It was only when they were restored to full strength that Dale gained the initiative.
Another clearance gave Dale a line out on the Chester 10 metre line. Clean ball off the top saw the ball swung left. Second phase ball was switched the other way and saw Barrett running at the defence and create room for an inside pass to Harry Bullough, dummy runner Dan Stockdale then took possession before putting Jimmy Bullough clear under the posts. Barrett added the conversion.
Chester had another visit into Dale’s 22 but again strong defence kept them out. Dale first held the attack up in a maul to win a scrum. A penalty soon followed and Chester’s frustration saw them being marched back 10 metres when lock Joseph Kyle protested. Barrett’s kick to touch found Dale on half way with the put in at the line out! More indiscipline from Chester saw Barrett push them into their own 22. Good control of the ball saw Dale go through the phases before Tom Davidson charged for the line drawing in the defence. Quick ball was fed to Richard Rhodes and a simple pass to Tom Barrett to touch down wide to the right. Barrett made the conversion look simple to give Dale a 14-0 lead.
Chester briefly came into the game. Only last man tackles from Barrett, Oli Cicognini and Harry Bullough kept them out. A penalty from Callum Bennett was poor reward for the sustained period of pressure.
More good pressure was relieved by a thumping tackle from Man of the Match, Lewis Wilson, as the tackler was unable to release the ball. Eventually Dale worked field position and had an attacking line out. Clean ball was spun into midfield and a dummy run from Andrew Hodgson was followed by a timely pass for Robbie Davidson to touch down under the posts. Davidson’s line and speed were excellent and he had enough to beat the cover. Barrett’s effort from the tee meant Wharfedale went in at half time with a 21-3 lead.
Dale scored first in the second half with a Barrett penalty.
Richard Rhodes was sinbinned on 46 minutes and the visitors took full advantage scoring 15 points with Dale reduced to 14 men. An unconverted try from Harrison Vare was followed by a Joshua Morris penalty. Morris’s conversion of Ross White’s try brought Chester to within a score. A Barrett shot from 44 metres steadied the home crowd nerves but another Morris three points meant the last three minutes were finger nail biting time for the home support with a great cheer of relief and victory going up with the final whistle.
It was a day of records with Dale 100% at both scrum and line out and they pinched a line out off Chester to boot! The line out work was excellent and gave Jimmy Bullough time to launch effective ball for the backs to use.
There were strong performances from many players. Harry Bullough and Cicognini both carried the ball well and made timely tackles to stem the Chester tide. Both Davidson brothers were influential with the older sibling causing problems in attack and forcing turnover ball. Richard Rhodes gave a performance showing that he is returning to his best, even fit enough to be found in the centre and giving a scoring pass!
Harry Bullough; Robbie Davidson, Andrew Hodgson (Josh Prell 77), Tom Davidson, Oliver Cicognini; Tom Barrett, Jimmy Bullough; Joe Altham, Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 41), Toms Asejevs (James Huck 52), Richard Rhodes (Alistair Allen 57), George Hedgley, Tom Whyte, Lewis Wilson, Josh Burridge (c).
Replacement not used Will Lawn.