This week the Development Team lads had the short trip to near neighbours Keighley. The hosts are having a decent season thus far, with 7 wins from 10 placing them 3rd in the Yorkshire Merit League, Championship North, 2 places above the men in Green. The match was to be played on Keighley’s recently completed 4G pitch to add an extra dimension to the encounter and probably the first time on such a surface for most, if not all, of the Wharfedale lads.
The game was delayed slightly following administrative errors with referee bookings, but, thankfully, local Rugby Development Officer, Hamish Pratt, changed his Saturday plans at short notice to ensure that the match was played.
From the outset, it was clear that this was going to be a bruising encounter. Keighley fielded a side full of size and players keen to carry the ball. Wharfedale knew that thay had to match this threat with resolute defence and a thirst for hard work.
Keighley opened the scoring as they exploited space down the right hand side, playing away from the club house. The visitors were exposed as too many men were interested in a bit of ruck inspecting rather than organising the defensive line to counter the Keighley attack. The scrambled defence did manage to keep the try out wide enough for the conversion to be missed, but Keighley were up 5-0.
Wharfedale came straight back on the attack and a penalty was given away just inside the home half. Scrum half Dave Hickling tapped quickly and set off on a powerful, determined run to take the play deep into the hosts 22. Another penalty was awarded for infringements at the breakdown. This time the kick to the corner was opted for. Eventually, Ben Hammonds touched the ball down over the line at the back of a rolling maul. Veteran fly half, Jonathan Davies, unusually missed the extras, but we were back all square at 5-5.
The next move was the outstanding score of the match as Wharfedale really took hold of the game for a spell. Dan Benson, playing at No. 8 and who was full of energy all afternoon, started the move and carried the ball past several defenders into the Keighley Half. A cracking angled line close to the ruck by prop Tim Spooner, who was playing his first game for years, burst open the defence to find himself in space with only the full back looming. The tackle was successful but the ball kept alive with a pop off the floor to the supporting Hickling. With play now well into the 22, the ball was recycled and found second row Jim Bowers charging through the centre to score by the posts. Davies made no mistake this time and the lead was taken 12-5.
As the half progressed, Keighley had opportunities to re-take and possible even extend the lead but were thwarted by determined, scrambling cover defence and on occasions, possibly not the best use of overlaps. Late in the half, a scrum on our own line was creaking but the defensive pressure and alertness of the backs turned over possession and Hickling nearly had the pace to win the kick chase all the way to the line. However, it was not to be and the ref signalled for half time to end an absorbing and bruising first 40.
Wharfedale started the second half strongly with the in form Edd Walker attacking down the far left with a chip and chase. From the resulting pressure, Keighley had little option but to kick dead for a 5m scrum. The scrum held firm and the ball went out to the right where Davies passed inside to centre Michael Beer who had the strength to power over. Davies was wayward again and probably chuntering about the unusual pitch, but the lead was extended to 17-5.
There was to be no more scoring during the second half, but it was Keighley who threatened the most. The odd way ward pass or poor decision helped the Greens to maintain their lead, but for most part it was due to the gritty determination in defence and a willingness to work hard for each other. To a man the 17 players were exceptional in their attitude. Tim Spooner, dropped right back in at the deep end after not playing for several seasons put in a huge shift at loosehead. Dan Benson was everywhere both with the ball and covering in defence. Ben Lee, another man not long back into the game, showed his defensive abilities, work rate and cover tackles and Edd Walker is playing rugby to a level that many would have thought was not even in him.
It was a cracking result lads. Onto the next one!
1. Tim Spooner
2. Max Metcalfe
3. Thomas Walker
4. Josh Clay
5. Jim Bowers
6. Ben Hammonds
7. Tom Baines ©
8. Dan Benson
9. Dave Hickling
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Ben Lee
12. Michael Beer
13. John Davidson
14. Mark Tywang
15. Edd Walker
16. Andy Charlton
17. Liam McCartan
Tries: – Hammonds, Bowers, Beer
Conversions: – Davies (1)