A raw day with a strong wind howling down the slope, but thankfully dry, welcomed North Ribblesdale and their supporters to the Avenue for the annual Boxing Day fixture. This year, due to Ribb’s injury woes and current relegation dogfight, the usual Ribb 1st team versus the Foresters had been cancelled but this allowed the players from the lower sides to take a starring role. The prospect of a ‘lower level’ of rugby seems not to have deterred any of the supporters and around 320 braved the cold to cheer the two sides on.
The game kicked off with Wharfedale playing up the slope and into the wind. As is often the case in these encounters, early exchanges were forceful but fair as each side sized the other up. Today there was also the added sub plot of inter family rivalry with Matty Close squaring up against his brother Donk who’d made the move to Ribb over the summer. The scrum looked to be a fairly even contest, the lineouts somewhat of a lottery in the strong wind and the breakdowns all to play for both sides.
The hosts eventually opened the scoring. Centre Simon Crabtree, returning to fitness in his second game back, made a half break, then fed full back Sam Mason who cut a lovely line before feeding winger Adam Stockdale to run in and round under the posts. Fly Half Jonathan Davies added the extras and the men in green were 7-0 to the good.
Ribb came straight back on the attack. The home side then gave a penalty away just outside their 22 on the clubhouse side. Ribb kicked to the corner, won the lineout and set up a rolling maul. Donk Close eventually claiming the try and some special off the ball treatment from his brother. The tricky conversion was missed, 7-5.
At the kick off re-start, Ribb knocked on and then gave a penalty away at the resulting scrum. Scrum half Sam Stockdale took a quick tap and passed to Scott Rogers.The centre made good yards deep into Ribb territory. The ball was recycled and carted up a number of times by the forwards before No.8 Joe Metcalfe powered over. The conversion was missed. 12-5.
Ribb’s veteran fly half, Spensley, then neatly chipped over the Wharfedale defence and regathered himself and continued the move into the home 22. Several phases later and a short squat individual, who I believe is affectionately known as ‘Box’ claimed the try for the visitors. 12-10.
After a succession of strong forward carries, the ball was spun wide by Wharfedale to Crabtree, who cut a neat line to part the defence and cross the whitewash. JD was off target. 17-10. To round off the half, the greens went on the attack again and camped up in the Ribb 22. After numerous pick and go’s, the ball was passed out to young second row Eddie Keighley, who powered over to take the score to 22-10. JD was back on target and the half time score was 24-10.
Wharfedale, now with the slope and breeze advantage, started the second half brightly. Good, strong carries, excellently led by Captain Wade all afternoon, set up the platform for the ball to go wide once more. Great handling skills by substitute centre, Ben Booth, and Sam Mason, put winger Stockdale in for his second try. 29-10.
More sustained green pressure despite some interesting handling skills by Mason (the previous score must have been somewhat lucky), enabled Joe Metcalfe to crash over for his second. Two men with 2 tries and jug buying was looking promising. 34-10.
Stockdale then crowned off a cracking afternoon for the winger, taking his hat-trick try, once again after the tireless forwards had set the platform. Winger Harris Catley addied the extras after old man JD was given a rest. 41-10.
Substitute prop Joe Jackson then grabbed a brace in quick succession, both cutting nice lines at close range to extend the lead to 53-10 as Catley added the extras to one of them.
Ribb, always an honest side, were never going to give in and game back to finish off the scoring. ‘Box’ again the claimant from a series of close range pick and go’s. The final score ended at 53-17 following and excellent touchline conversion.
Wharfedale could have extended their lead further but Simon ‘What a Muppet’ Crabtree’s swan diving knock-on effort in the score board corner put paid to this.
All in all a really pleasing performance by the lads in green and a nice opportunity to take top billing in front of a capacity crowd. Many a player could be singled out for individual praise but, to a man, the performance (well mostly Mr Crabtree) was excellent.
A tradition of this fixture is that Wharfedale pick a man of the match from the Ribb side and vice versa. The Green management selected Ribb’s fullback Josh Harrison who had a solid game in conditions testing for any fullback and carried strongly all afternoon. Ribb selected Dan Benson for the Wharfedale man of the match. Few disagreed as the second row was outstanding all afternoon with a real appetite for work and ball carrying.
1. Matty Close
2. Tom Carlisle
3. Thomas Walker
4. Dan Benson
5. Eddie Keighley
6. Jim Mason
7. David Wade ©
8. Joe Metcalfe
9. Sam Stockdale
10. Jonathan Davies
11. Adam Stockdale
12. Scott Rogers
13. Simon Crabtree
14. Harris Catley
15. Sam Mason
16. Joe Jackson
17. Jake Starkey
18. Tom Baines
19. James Ardron
20. Chris Swainson
21. Rory McNabb
22. John Davidson
23. Ben Booth
Tries: A Stockdale (3), J Metcalfe (2), J Jackson (2), E Keighley, S Crabtree
Cons: J Davies (2), H Catley (2)