A mucky, wet, miserable, winters day and a tough trip to 4th placed Heath was the prospect for the 3rd Placed Wharfedale Development XV. The home match early in the season had finished 36-33 in favour of the visitors so a tough challenge was always going to be expected. In addition to this, the visiting side was somewhat depleted from recent weeks due to work commitments, beer festivals, upcoming weddings, injuries and general waffnackery. We had managed to assemble a bare 15 men, 3 of which you’d consider backs. Of those three, one was a colt, one was approaching 50 and the third was made of glass, not known for completing 80 minutes and playing in his first game for some time.
Local man ‘Spud’ has been busy with his fork all morning to make the pitch ‘playable’ and the assembled crew went out to warm up asking various questions of team mates like ‘what do you do on the wing?’, ‘which number is inside centre?’ but none the less there was a backs to the wall enthusiasm to give everything and get stuck in to the task at hand.
The opening exchanges were physical and attritional from both sides with no quarter given and some big tackles were made. Up front Jack Hirst was looking to make yards from any opportunity (if he didn’t knock on first) and was ably supported in the forward carrying by Robert Hargreaves, Ben Hammonds, Thomas Walker and Tom Carlisle. The two loose forwards of John Stephenson and David Wade were thirsty for work, hustling every ruck, making tackles and carrying hard.
The deadlock was broken after quarter of an hour when Jonny Davies coolly knocked over a penalty from in front of the posts to take the lead, 3-0. Ten minutes later, Heath were on the score board themselves with a converted try. 3-7. Soon after the men in green restored their lead when Jacob Taylor, who was playing at outside centre and put in a cracking performance both in defence and attack, cut through the Heath defenders to power over for our first try. JD missed the extras but we were back in front. 8-7.
As the half drew to a close, JD went on a determined run from near the opposition 22 line, he twisted and turned out of several would-be tackles and eventually crashed over the line for a fine score. That time he was on target with the extras and extended the lead to 15-7.
As the pitch deteriorated, the match became a real arm wrestle but no ground was given and everyone to a man was determined to defend the lead and look to extend it if possible. Twenty minutes into the half, JD was the man to break the deadlock with another powerful run to score his second try which he duly converted to extend the lead to 22-7.
Heath quickly responded with a converted try of their own to reduce the deficit to eight points but no more scores were recorded as the conditions and resolute defence thwarted attacking opportunities. Final score 22-14.
What a performance; grit, determination, gutsy effort and team work. Eighty minutes from everyone, from young colt Tom Oakes at full back to age unknown Mick Greenwood in the second row. Taylor and Dan Benson chopped everything down in the centres and ran hard all day and the two ‘wingers’, Ben Rymer and Ted Wilman surpassed all expectations and made a huge difference. ‘Glass’ Harry Balderson had a great game at 9 and more surprisingly lasted the full 80. Last but not least, virtually an every present this season, JD, led the team from the front with two excellent tries but perhaps more surprisingly made more tackles today than the rest of the season combined, including an excellent corner flag try saver.
Top stuff lads. Onto next week.
1. Jack Hirst
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Tom Walker
4. Robert Hargreaves
5. Mick Greenwood
6. David Wade
7. John Stephenson
8. Ben Hammonds
9. Harry Balderson
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Ben Rymer
12. Dan Benson
13. Jacob Taylor
14. Ted Wilman
15. Tom Oakes
Subs: – none
Tries: Davies (2), Taylor
Cons: Davies (2)