The Wharfedale caravan was delayed on the A1 and had little time to prepare for this vital match. With 16 minutes to go it looked like a wasted trip to the northeast as the Greens were down to 14 men and trailed by 34-15.
This was the signal for the Machine to find a gear and start to play with some drive and commitment. They scored two tries in the last period of the game, the second, a penalty try, giving them a valuable two bonus points as it was their fourth try and brought them to within 7 points.
As it happened Dale started brightly. Wharfedale kicked off with a slight breeze advantage and went ahead after two minutes from a Jamie Guy penalty. This penalty was the result of a good run from Taylor Prell which was followed by strong ball carries from Jack Barnard and Matt Beesley. The latter suffering a knock on the ankle which saw him leave the field shortly after, a pity as he had ran at least 150 metres with the ball (this was according to Matt; he also claimed one of the tries scored later in the match!)
Both sides were making handling errors and Dale were made to pay when they lost a scrum outside their own 22. A penalty soon followed which was kicked deep into the visitor`s 22.
A clever blind side move from the line out brought Blaydon their first try by Robert Kalbrier. Andy Baggett’s conversion from wide right just had the legs to creep over the bar.
Dale strove to make ground in the next few minutes but mistakes cost them dearly. First Tom Davidson kicked the ball dead from a penalty when a more accurate kick would have given Dale an attacking line out. Dale were then guilt of losing a line out on their own 22. Three penalties later Baggett added three points to Blaydon`s score. The home side led 10-3 after 15 minutes.
The visitors seemed to be surviving until a yellow card was awarded to Adam Howard just before half time. Blaydon used the man advantage to force a catch and drive for an unconverted try, awarded to Harry Bate, and a justified 15-3 lead at the interval.
Still with a man advantage William Witty scored a super try for Blaydon to start the second half. The move started with a kick ahead which Blaydon gleefully gathered. Quick ball from the breakdown saw a sweeping move to the right and then with more speedy recycling they stretched the Green defence to set up the try.
Wharfedale answered with a try from Cameron Hudson, Jamie Guy added the two points. This was one of Wharfedale’s best moments as the backs and forwards combined to push Blaydon deep into their own 22. On the way to this position there was a fine run from Adam Howard and an exquisite inside ball from a more confident Jamie Guy. Hudson may have been lucky to get to the ball first but for once Blaydon’s defence was poor.
Now it was Dale’s turn to defend but the penalty count was growing against them and this was impounded with another yellow card to Jake Armstrong quickly followed by a converted penalty try.
Again Dale countered when Lloyd Davies finished off another well constructed move. Jack Barnard made good yards from a tap and go penalty, quick ball was well used and good runs and off loading from Joe Altham and Dan Solomi put Davies clear.
A bit of brilliance from Craig Willis, and the extras from Baggett, seemed to put any reward for the visitors out of reach at 34-15 until Wharfedale bravely fought back.
The restart was claimed by the Greens. The ref now seemed to be trying to balance the penalty count and this helped Wharfedale progress deep into Blaydon’s 22. Rhodes Adamson was sin binned for Blaydon. Doherty took a quick tap and darted over to score before the final flourish giving the faithful something to smile about.
Wharfedale were now playing with determination and eagerness that had been missing for long periods of the first half. The two points were vital as this now gives Dale an 11 point gap above the dreaded 14th spot and relegation. There are three home games coming up and the sixteenth man can help put Wharfedale safe by the middle of March.
The stuttering first half display could have been the cause of late arrival, compounded by not understanding the referee’s interpretation of the laws. The supporters were rather startled at how quickly the game got under way given that Dale’s lateness was out of their control as the A1 had been closed and the coach had been stuck in the backlog. A penalty count of ten to three at half time did not help Wharfedale’s cause. A brave attempt by the man in black near the end of the game to balance the books still left Dale in the deficit on the penalty count!
A frustrated Jon Feeley refused to comment about the kick off arrangements caused by the closure of the A1.
He did however sum up the afternoon by saying “We planned and trained well in the run up to this game and needless to say was very disappointed with our first half effort. We found it difficult to focus and made a number of elementary errors which were not acceptable. The fantastic travelling support deserved better, but more importantly we owed to ourselves. We had some very frank and honest words at half-time and the second half effort was a complete contrast. Our movement in attack was the best I have seen for some time and our ability to create pressure through sustained possession at pace was the most pleasing aspect. Four tries in 40mins shows just what an attacking threat we can be and will aim to build on this. There were a number of factors in and around this game that were out of our control and it was a harsh lesson in how they cannot be allowed to impact upon performance. We will learn from that and I know the players are determined to perform from the first minute next week”
A selection of photographs of the match are available under the Gallery tag near the top of this page.
Wharfedale: Taylor Prell; Lloyd Davies, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson, Oli Cicognini (Alex Powell 39); Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c); Matt Beesley (Joe Altham 4, Matt Freeman 62), Ian Larkin, Jake Armstrong, Adam Howard, Simon Willet, Jack Barnard, Dan Solomi, Jim Mason (Oli Cicognini 46, Joe Altham 72, Oli Cicognini 77 ). Replacements not used: Dan Stockdale, Josh Prell.