The Wharfedale Development XV travelled the short distance to Keighley to take on a quality side in tricky, testing conditions. Like so much of the winter, the conditions underfoot were less than ideal, but both teams were keen to play. Wharfedale knew that their resounding victory the week before against promotion rivals Selby would count for nothing in a derby match and Keighley were always going to be a tough prospect.
There was no score for the first 15 minutes as both sides took turns to launch attacks only to be stopped by resolute defence. Eventually the deadlock was broken by a great break by Nick Taylor at full back. He was tackled 5 meters short but Sam Smith was on hand to collect the pass and touch down. 5-0 to the men in green. Keighley then responded with a period of sustained attack and camped in the Dale 22 for some time. Disciplined defence eventually paid dividends and Taylor broke clear with the turnover ball up to half way. Good support play by Tom Carlisle and quick recycling saw the ball pass out to Harry Croft who managed to evade the last two defenders to score. Harris Catley converted and we were 12-0 up.
Some loose play by Wharfedale and speculative off-loading saw Keighley capitalise and hacked the ball on a couple of times and just managed to touch it down behind the posts. 12-7. Wharfedale responded well, a crunching tackle by No.8 Matt Wareing at the restart forced a turnover and the visitors were back on the attack. The phase looked to have come to a stop after a loose pass went to ground, but Smith scooped it up and stormed through the Keighley midfield with a blistering run for his second score of the afternoon. 17-7.
Smith then completed his second hat trick in two weeks after Keighley kicked the ball out of their 22 but found the winger in dangerous form. An outstanding run down the touchline, full of determination saw him beat 4 defenders to score wide out on the left. 22-7.
The first half scoring was completed after Taylor once again broke clear, showing no ill effects of recent injuries and looking like he’s getting back to his best form. He was tackled short of the line but a sweet offload to the supporting Croft took the first half score to 29-7.
The second half started similarly to the first and Wharfedale knew that the half time score flattered them a little and Keighley were never going to give up and any lapse in concentration could see them getting right back into the contest. The home side scored first. Second row, Dan Benson was shown a Yellow card for persistent team infringement and Keighley capitalised with a well organised rolling maul which saw them reduce the deficit to 29-12.
Wharfedales response was excellent. They went straight back on the attack. Just about all the team handled the ball and made yards and eventually Croft powered over for his hat trick. 34-12. Similarly, Keighley were not to be out-done and came straight back with a score of their own and scored a try out wide after a sustained period of pressure. 34-17.
The final score of the afternoon was taken by Michael Beer. The fly half found space to cross after a series of drives and carries by Wharfedale. Final score 39-17.
It had been a really pleasing performance and result in a fixture that was never going to be easy. It had been very much a team performance even though two lads got hat tricks. Keighley deserve lots of credit for several reasons. Firstly for wanting the game to be played even though their pitch took an absolute hammering and then for their hospitality. Good old fashioned baths after the game then an excellent supper including jam roly poly pudding and a jug of beer to share.
1. Ian Close
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Joe Jackson
4. Dan Benson
5. Adam Stockton
6. David Wade
7. Andrew Bode
8. Matt Wareing
9. Will Lawn
10. Michael Beer
11. Sam Smith
12. Sam Mason
13. Harry Croft
14. Harris Catley
15. Nick Taylor
16. Ben Reece
Tries: Smith (3), Croft (3), Beer
Cons: Catley (2)