A wintery morning and a flapping Clarty had the management up to the club early for a pitch inspection to see if play could go ahead. The pitch was white over with about an inch of snow, but perfectly playable underfoot, so contact was made with West Leeds team manager to confirm the game as on and then a brush was sourced to clear the snow from the lines. By 12 o’clock the lines were clear and the brush wielders were kindly rewarded with a bacon sandwich provided by Rachel only to then watch the day warm up and provide a fully green pitch by kick off!
Our opponents today were West Leeds 2nd XV who sit right at the top of the table and the reverse fixture back in October saw the men in green suffer a 69-14 defeat, admittedly with a rather depleted side to what we usually field, but none the less, the size of the challenge was clear to be seen.
A number of the lads were doubling up from the previous evening where they helped out the 4th against Skipton, and in some cases in some rather unfamiliar positions, not least Dan Benson at fly half! Hopefully they had left enough in the tank for today’s encounter. We did have benefit of some added experience in the squad though, with Chris Steel making an appearance at Prop and Dave Charnley poised on the bench to bolster the front row when required.
The game kicked off with Wharfedale playing up the hill and the opening exchanges were fairly even with strong carries and resolute defence from both sides and probing kicks testing each other out. An early highlight was when JD was sat on his arse by their big prop, much to the amusement of the hardy supporters. About 15 minutes in the home side broke the dead lock. The ball was sent out to the left, around the half way line and hit Olly Bullock on a cracking line which split open the visitors defence. Still with a couple of defenders to beat, the young colt showed great pace and skill to finish off a fine individual try. Jonathan Davies added the simple extras front in front of the posts. 7-0.
The home side then had to manage with 14 men for a 10 minute spell as Burt Hargreaves was back around 10 inches rather than the required 10 metres when West Leeds took a quick tap penalty. The athletic looking second row probably fancied a rest and possibly a smoke. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the home side added to their lead. An attacking kick by West Leeds was well fielded and marked by JD, who then put in a kick for the lads to chase, David Wade was the first there to tackle the visitors full back and the ball was turned over. Elliot Stockton then powered through towards the opposition 22 with a determined run and flicked a fantastic offload to the supporting Bullock who raced away for his second. JD on target again. 14-0.
As the half progressed and we were back up to our full complement of men, the home side were continuing to take control of the game against a very good West Leeds outfit. The determination and work rate of the squad as a whole was exemplary all afternoon. We were deep in their 22 and opted for a scrum after a penalty was awarded. The front row of Thomas Walker, Tom Carlisle and Steel with Charnley backing up in his less familiar role as prop, were causing the visitors all sorts of bother in the set piece. The pushover went close, but was just held so Dave Hickling darted from 9 and got even nearer to the well swept whitewash. A quick scoop from Wade and the try was scored. JD was wayward this time but 19-0 for half time was excellent reward for a first half performance up the hill.
Wharfedale continued with similar confidence in the second half. A break down the far wing by Josh Brewer, on a half time for Russ Aldersley who was suffering with chocolate hamstrings, took the play into the West Leeds 22. The ball was passed to the supporting Wade, who with one man to beat, miraculously, stepped him and scored near the posts. JD was back on target and try bonus point in the bag. 26-0.
As the half progressed, West Leeds showed their attacking abilities and reminded the men in green that these guys were no pushover despite what the scoreboard said. They had the ability to score points if given half a chance. Such was the focus and determination of the hosts, that despite tiring bodies, especially those who played on Friday night, the West Leeds lads were thwarted in their pursuit of points.
The final score of the match was also Wharfedales. After a period of sustained pressure in the 22, the ball came out wide to the left hand side, near the club house where Sam Lockwood stepped the last man to score. JD was wayward but 31-0.
As the game drew to a close, Wharfedale kept the visitors at bay to keep them to nil and round off a fine afternoon and one of the best performances of the season. To a man, the whole squad were excellent. A special mention to the coIts, Olly Bullock, who had a cracker of a game scoring twice and Joe Buckley on debut on the wing or at full back showed he was more than capable. It was also great to see a few experienced lads adding to the side and a hand off by Steely, which sent one of the Leeds lads flying, matrix style, was rather amusing.
Onto next week lads, let see if we can back it up at Heath.
Team: – 1.Chris Steel, 2.Tom Carlisle, 3.Thomas Walker, 4.Robert Hargreaves, 5.Elliot Stockton, 6.David Wade, 7.Tom Baines, 8.Dan Benson, 9.Dave Hickling, 10.Jonathan Davies, 11.Sam Lockwood, 12.Sam Mason, 13.Olly Bullock, 14.Joe Buckley, 15.Russ Aldersley.
Subs: – 16.Dave Charnley, 17.Max Metcalfe, 18.John Stephenson, 19.Josh Brewer, 20.Mick Greenwood.
Tries: – Bullock (2), Wade (2), Lockwood.
Conversions: – Davies (3).