A bright, fresh afternoon and the added bonus of playing on the first team pitch was the backdrop to the latest encounter for the 3rd team. Today’s opposition was Heath 2nd XV, who lay just one place above us in the merit table and a decent crowd, despite the option of watching the international turned up to pass critique.
The hosts opened strongly, playing up the slope with determined runs and forceful carries into the Heath defenders. The ball was passed wide to the left where winger Edd Walker injected pace past the scratching shed, chipped over the fullback and nearly regathered the ball but forced the play into touch for an attacking lineout just 5m out. The ball was won cleanly and after several close range pick and goes, flanker Jacob Taylor powered over. 5-0.
Wharfedale continued this good early form and were full of running, carrying the ball deep into the Heath half with Morgan Davies and Jonathan Davies prominent. A penalty was on offer for offside but the advantage was taken well. J Davies bursting through from fly-half to score by the posts. He made no mistake with the extras. 12-0.
The momentum and good play continued. Young second row Elliot Stockton really made his presence felt with the ball in hand and unhinged winger Ben Lee looked useful despite several years since last having played. The play was taken up towards the opposition 22 where scrum half Dave Hickling broke clear from the base of a ruck and had the pace to score a fine individual try under the posts. JD was on target again and we were 19-0 up and looking good.
As the half progressed, the home side relaxed a little, not a lot but enough to let Heath back into the game. A nice angled line was cut by Edd Walker but the offload was less accurate. Heath were quick to profit from the loose ball and had a clear run in for their first score, a good half hour into the match. 19-7. They then followed up with two more tries before the half was done Firstly from an overlap created down the left on which their winger capitalised, 19-14, then an attacking chip through was not dealt with cleanly. It was kicked on again and touched down to tie the score. The successful conversion gave the visitors the lead for the first time. 19-21.
At half time, we knew we had to regain the momentum that we had during the opening half hour and that it was vital to score first and restore the lead. We kicked off down the slope and soon had the ball back in our possession. JD kicked the ball through then milked a penalty as he was blocked from chasing the ball (like he wanted to chase it?). There were some choice words from Heath and an extra 10m was given. The ball was kicked to touch for an attacking lineout. The drive was thwarted by excellent Heath defence but Hickling had the power to sneak over from close range for his second. JD added the extras. 26-21.
Things were back as we wanted them and the attacking play continued. From a line out another dart by Hickling followed by a pick and go by captain and number 8 Tom Baines took the play forward. A penalty for not rolling away was awarded. The lineout was chosen again but this time the ball went wide to substantial centre Morgan Davies, who splatted several defenders out of his way all the way to the white wash, but, unfortunately he was penalised for a double movement in the act of scoring. The crowd commented that maybe he just bounced!
Undeterred, Wharfedale continued attacking and after several attacking scrums and the agricultural front row contingent of Walker, Carlisle and Huck trying their damnedest to get a push over try, the Heath pack were no mugs and up to the challenge. Hickling picked again, and went close, so the ball was sent wide to Ben Lee, who had enough space and pace to score. JD excellently added the extras. 33-21.
But the contest was far from over…. A knock on by Hodgson running a dummy line off JD (always expect the ball Andrew!) gifted the ball back to Heath who whipped it out to the left and capitalised on an overlap to score followed by another excellent conversion and they were in touching distance at 33-28.
Heath now sniffing a possible victory, were soon back into the Dale 22. They chose to drive it, but once stopped, the ball was passed out to the left again for their fifth try. The tricky conversion was missed to tie the scores at 33-33, which posed a bit of a problem for our scoreboard operator, Leonard Tiffany, as he only had three 3’s! To the amusement of the crowd, he regularly moved one of the 3’s between Wharfedale and Heaths tallies so as not to show bias.
With 5 minutes left on the clock, Heath were on the attack again, right up the middle of the pitch and approaching the Wharfedale 22. JD gave a penalty away right in front of the sticks, which he strenuously denied any wrong-doing asserting that the official had made a mistake, but none the less, the kick was awarded and duly knocked over for three points for a jubilant Heath and a relieved score board operative (although I’m sure he’d prefer a green win.) 33-36.
In the remaining minutes Wharfedale tried to take back the lead but to no avail and in fact Heath looked the more likely to score again. A disappointing loss as for much of the afternoon we played good rugby and controlled the game well but a drop in concentration and an increased error count against a very good Heath side ultimately cost us this game.
1. James Huck
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Tom Walker
4. Elliot Stockton
5. Tom Rymer
6. Jacob Taylor
7. John Stephenson
8. Tom Baines
9. Dave Hickling
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Edd Walker
12. Morgan Davies
13. Michael Beer
14. Ben Lee
15. Sam Arkwright
16. Ben Rymer
17. Adam Stockdale
18. Andrew Hodgson
Tries: – Hickling (2), Taylor, J Davies, Lee. Conversions: – J Davies (4)