Another fantastic evening of rugby under the lights saw the Devs overcome a determined Bradford & Bingley team to clinch a place in the Aire-Wharfe Plate Final.
Having played each other twice already in the league this season the opposition were well-known to the Greens, the question was ‘Which Bees team would turn up?’ The one that mercilessly dismantled the Devs 75-5 at the start of the season or the one the Devs delivered a sound beating to by the exact same score back in March?
After 10 minutes the score was still 0-0 and it was clear that the match was going to be a much more balanced affair. In the early exchanges both Stevie Pearson and Harry Croft looked dangerous returning the ball from deep. B&B were also exerting pressure of their own and were unlucky not to score the first try, with only desperate defending by Matty Wareing and Andrew Bode + a knock by the B&B centre keeping the Green’s line intact. Eventually the only points to come from a period of sustained pressure were from a penalty, 3-0 to the visitors.
Following the restart the Greens looked to be getting back into their stride but a loose pass by James Otulakowski (who otherwise had an excellent game) sent the Bees winger away down the sidelines, only an excellent cover tackle from David Wade stopped them extending their lead.
On 17 minutes a now familiar and much-loved moment for the home fans inevitably happened. Having been a mere spectator until this point the ball found its way to Sam Smith; 10 seconds later he was scoring under the posts. Standard. Harris Catley added the extras. 7-3 to Wharfedale.
A few minutes later a quick tap penalty by Otulakowski saw him feed Croft who drew the cover tackler before giving the pass wide to Stevie Pearson who crossed for the Devs second try (again converted by Catley).
Bradford & Bingley immediately hit back scoring a try of their own to make it 14-10.
Constantly in the thick of the action Otulakowski broke the game line and after a quick interchange of passes with Smith he was over the try line in the corner for the Devs’ third try. 19-10.
With 10 minutes to go in the half there was still time for one more score. A nice break by the Bees fullback narrowly failed to bring a try but with only a couple of minutes left in the half the Bees were rewarded for their efforts with an unconverted try to make the half-time score 19-15.
At this point it really did appear to be anyone’s game and so it was a surprise when Wharfedale quickly built a commanding 31-15 lead following two more trys in the first 10 minutes of the half, Sam Smith grabbing his second before Ian Close claimed one for himself.
Again the visitors forced their way back into the game with their forwards creating a try after a penalty and a series of short drives to bring the score back to 31-22.
The next score was likely to prove decisive and the Greens showed great intent with Jim Bowers immediately regathering the ball following the restart. Despite good passing between Bode and Wade the ball was eventually turned over but a wayward clearance from the Bees saw the ball find its way into the hands of Joel Bradley who then nudged through a delicate chip-kick for the backs to chase. Ralph Wellock, who had come on for Pearson, was first to get there, touching down to make the score 36-22.
The game then slowed as both teams got their breath back but an infringement by the visitors just inside their own half was punished by Catley who knocked over the resulting penalty kick to make it 39-22.
Wellock was then unlucky not to grab a second try for himself when he was pulled back for a marginal forward pass. To his credit he didn’t complain and almost immediately was required to make a great tackle on his own five yard line to deny the Bees a try of their own.
With two minutes to go there was still just enough time for Sam Smith to grab another hat-trick (isn’t beer expensive these days Sam?) meaning the match ended 46-22 to the Devs.
A great game for players and spectators alike (a former British Lion in the crowd was glowing in his post-match praise), let’s hope the final sees another home draw for the Greens!
1. Matt Close
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Ian Close (1 try)
4. Dan Benson
5. Jim Bowers
6. David Wade
7. Andrew Bode
8. Matthew Wareing
9. James Otulakowski (1 try)
10. Joel Bradley
11. Sam Smith (3 trys)
12. Sam Mason
13. Harry Croft
14. Stevie Pearson (1 try)
15. Harris Catley (1 Pen, 4 con)
16. Rob Burnett
17. Tom Walker
18. Scott Rogers
19. Ralph Wellock (1 try)