A healthy crowd of both Wharfedale and Salem followers made their way to The Avenue last Friday evening to watch a cracking, attritional and entertaining contest between two good sides.
The last time the teams met was back in the spring when Salem out played the Wharfedale pack and comfortably won the first round tie of the Aire-Wharfe cup. Dale had the benefit of being able to select regular props this time around and also welcomed the experienced Nick Taylor into the side after a long injury lay off.
Things started off well for the home side with a good break by Ben Booth in the centre resulting in a Salem infringement and a relatively easy penalty chance to open the scoring. Unfortunately Morgan Davies missed, but further pressure and a second penalty chance was awarded. There was no mistake this time by Davies – 3-0 to the home side.
Next, bullocking yards up the mid-field by Davies put wharfedale well into Salem territory. The ball was then chipped cross field, volleyed by full back Taylor, and the supporting Booth managed to gather the kick ahead and feed back to Taylor who crossed the line for the first try of the night. Conversion missed 8-0.
Dale were now playing with confidence and made good inroads into the Salem half. Several more penalties were awarded then from a line out 5 meters out, the home pack drove for the line, only to be stopped just short, but the ball was still alive and Donk Close managed to crash over from short range. Conversion missed 13-0.
A solid Dale scrum headed by young Joe Jackson and Donk at prop enabled Dale to start another attack. Davies making more good yards offloaded to Booth who put his centre partner Scott Rogers in at the corner and Davies successfully converted, 20-0.
Things were looking good and a great defensive effort to thwart a Salem attack enabled Wharfedale to turn the ball over but sloppy play and a loose ball let Salem sprint through and claim their first score of the night. 20-5.
Salem then scored their second after a kick through was knocked on by Wharfedale, then kicked further ahead by the chasing Salem player who out paced the home defence to score, 20-12.
Wharfedale responded well to restore a healthy lead. A break out of his own half by Taylor who fed the supporting Booth, who in turn passed to winger Sam Smith, who, despite summering rather well, managed to run clear and flop over the line for the 4th try. Replacement Joe Gill added the extras. 27-12.
Salem were never going to give up that easily and a strong scrum and then close range drives gave them their third try, 27-17.
The next phase to trouble the scorers was rather bizarre. Winger Gill crashed over in the right corner close to the flag. The ref didn’t believe the touch judge who said that the score was good, but didn’t know himself whether it was in touch or not either(!} and after sustained vocal chunterring by the Salem lads awarded an attacking scrum???? (The resident Wharfedale TMO (the crowd) said the try was good!).
Anyway, from the resulting scrum, the ball was spun into the centres where Booth managed to cut through and score by the posts. Gill converted again. 34-17. The final score of the match was Salem’s after a Dale yellow card. Final score 34-22.
A really pleasing result for the lads, who fronted up well and did not allow the Salem pack the same freedom as the previous encounter, which then set the platform for the result.