A bright, warm spring day at Sandal was the destination for the lads in green for their first round of the Yorkshire Merit Leagues Championship North & South playoffs. We arrived later than preferred and had a less than satisfactory warm-up especially as we had several new combinations, notably in the forward pack.
Unsurprisingly then, Sandal started the brighter and were the first to trouble the scorers with a try out wide before the visitors had woken up. 5-0 to the hosts.
The lads then began to settle into the game a bit more despite a number of the forwards looking like they had grown roots with the speed they were moving around the paddock. Thankfully, there were exceptions, notably colt Jacob Taylor making his senior debut at open side who put in a cracking shift all afternoon. It was his turnover that created the first try for Wharfedale. The ball was then fed wide to centre Scott Rogers who made good yards before releasing the surprisingly quick Sam Smith. The winger charged away from around half way to score near the posts. Fly and captain for the day, Jonny Davies added the extras and we were in the lead at 5-7.
Wharfedale then followed this up with another good attacking phase which resulted in a penalty in a decent kicking position and as the lineout was rather shambolic we wisely opted for goal. JD was on target to extend the lead to 5-10.
Another senior debutant was then brought off the bench as Elliot Stockton came on to replace his brother, Adam, who was tiring somewhat. Elliot, like his fellow colts on the pitch took the game straight to the opposition and made good yards deep into Sandal territory. This was continued by the other end of the age range as JD carried on the move and went close. From the resulting 5 yard scrum, Dan Benson, now looking like he’d shed Fridays nights ale consumption, carried hard from the base and crashed over. JD was successful with the conversion and we were a pleasing 5-17 up at half time.
The early exchanges in the second half were a nip and tuck affair and no further scores were added for at least 15 minutes. Eventually, Sandal broke the dead lock when their open-side scooped up the ball at the base of a ruck and made use of some weak defending to run clear to the line. The conversion was added and they were closing the gap at 12-17.
The hosts then had a real purple patch and added to their scoring with another try. This time it was unconverted to level the scores at 17-all. This was soon followed by another when their prop crashed over in the right hand corner. The tricky conversion was missed but Sandal had the lead for the first time at 22-17.
With the clock ticking, Wharfedale threw everything they could at the game to gain suitable field position and get within scoring distance to try and rescue the game. After one such attack, Sandal infringed and a penalty was awarded, just inside their half. With the lineout still chaotic a quick tap was taken which Jim Bowers carted up strongly towards the Sandal 22. The ball was recycled and fed out to JD who set off on a determined run towards the Sandal line. The ageing flyhalf (45 on Tuesday) powered past several defenders to score an excellent try and level the scores at 22 apiece. Unfortunately, he’d knackered himself that much that the sitter of a conversion was missed!
Another attack was then required to try to win the game as the prospect of extra time wasn’t looking favourable to several of our guys. The opportunity came and again Sandal were penalised. This time in a kickable position and 3 points would be enough. JD opted for goal but missed another sitter just to keep everyone on edge.
As the clock ticked, Sandal were looking the more likely of the two sides to score and take the game at the death. They had an attacking line-out about 15 metres out from the Greens line, but, somehow, it was disrupted. The turnover ball was then fed out wide to the left wing, where it found Smithy just outside his own 22. The blustering winger set off on a characteristic run (for him at least!) and beat two or three defenders as he toed the touchline before managing to cut in-field to score to the left of the posts. Scrum Half Rory McNabb, now with the kicking duties, added the extras then the referee blew for time. Phew.
Final score: Sandal 2XV 22 – 29 Wharfedale Development XV.
It had taken a huge effort and great character to win the game from all concerned. The three colts, Jacob Taylor, Elliot Stockton and Eddie Gill all played impressively and the usual 4th team props of Cabbage & Tom Allsopp both put in big 80 minutes in conditions that did not favour their physiques.
1. Paul Marklew
2. Ben Rymer
3. Tom Allsopp
4. Adam Stockton
5. Eddie Keighley
6. Jim Bowers
7. Jacob Taylor
8. Dan Benson
9. Rory McNabb
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Sam Smith
12. Michael Beer
13. Scott Rogers
14. Eddie Gill
15. Jon Feeley
16. Elliot Stockton
17. Duncan Clayton-Stead
Tries: Smith (2), Benson, Davies – Cons: Davies (2), McNabb. – Pens: Davies