After a very challenging week for the management, in particularly Sam Mason, who must have been permanently attached to his phone with the amount of messages and phone calls he made in a desperate attempt to field a full side. In the end, we travelled to Ripon with only 12 players, to which recent coaching addition, Ben Whitfield gallantly increased to 13 (for 7 minutes!). Ripon kindly lent us two men to even the numbers and the match was away.
Wharfedale started brightly. The lack of regular men seemingly galvanised the focus of the committed few. The forwards, who were excellent all afternoon, revelled in the sticky conditions and really took the game to their hosts. After such good play and enterprise an opportunity opened up for blustering winger Sam Smith playing in an unfamiliar role in the centre. He set off on a typical run for the physics defying beast and left several defenders in his wake as half the pitch was covered to score. Flyhalf Jonny Davies added the simple extras from in front of the posts and we were 7-0 to the good.
Second row Dan Benson, who is in tremendous form of late, was the catalyst for the next score. A storming break up the middle of the paddock well into Ripons half then set up an opening for Rees (a Ripon winger playing at scrum half for us). He broke clear and with just the fullback to beat, timed his pass to perfection to the supporting JD who had enough in his experienced legs to score. He added the simple extras and we were a pleasing 14-0 up.
Smith, never one to shy away from the limelight, then went on another bullocking run, splattering defenders in all directions as they attempted to ground the behemoth but to no avail as he crossed from a fair distance to claim his second of the match. Again JD added the 2 points. 21-0
The visitors were having a really good run of form and JD started to bring a trick or two to the afternoon. A cross field kick found a somewhat surprised Danish winger, generously on short term loan from our hosts. He carried the ball to his ‘opposition’ before the ball was fed inside to Smith who stormed away to round off an excellent hatrick. JD was once again on target. 28-0.
Ripon then enjoyed a period of good attacking play for what seemed like the first time in the half. Firstly, an excellent jinking run cut through tiring defenders to score near the posts. 28-7. Then following a mid-field scrum, the ball was fed to the right where extra numbers made use of the space to cross for their second. 28-12.
After the free flowing first half, especially from the Wharfedale perspective, the second half was more of an attritional affair. Ripon broke the deadlock first with Rees, now restored to his familiar team and familiar position on the wing, crossed over on the left hand side. The conversion was missed but the hosts were back in the game. 28-17
That was just about it for scores in the second half. Ripon had another opportunity but an excellent cover tackle by Smith prevented Rees claiming his second try of the afternoon. The visitors then fell foul of the official’s interpretation of the new high tackle laws. Firstly Neil Dickinson was unfairly penalised for what seem like a great tackle. The Smith got 10 minutes rest (which he probably wanted) after an adjudged high shot/flop combo.
But the lads in green were not to be deterred and rounded off a pleasing afternoon with a well-orchestrated 35m rolling maul, directed by the world’s largest scrumhalf, Morgan Davies. The maul was stopped just short of the line, but illegally according to the ref and a penalty try was awarded. JD with the extras took the final score to 35-17.
It had been a really pleasing afternoon’s rugby following a tricky week. Huge credit is due to the lads who played and the manner in which they played. The forwards were outstanding with their tireless work rate and ball carrying. JD organised expertly at 10 (despite bullying a 17 year old for a marginally late shot) and Smith was at his destructive best. In the back three, Ed Walker, called into the side from the 4’s at late notice, had one of his best games for the 3’s and winger Owain Chapman showed great promise despite very little rugby experience.
Our thanks go out to Ripon for showing great rugby spirit and making up the shortfall which contributed to their defeat. 15 versus 12 would have been a totally different story.
1. Neil Dickinson
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Thomas Walker
4. Eddie Keighley
5. Dan Benson
6. Jim Bowers
7. Tom Baines
8. Morgan Davies
9. Rees (Ripon Bloke)
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Carson (Danish Ripon Bloke)
12. Sam Smith
13. Ben Whitfield
14. Owain Chapman
15. Ed Walker
Tries: – Smith (3), J Davies, Penalty
Cons: – J Davies (5)