The Wharfedale spirit that was evident last Wednesday when the Forresters won a thrilling game against DMP seconds, was shown again last Saturday. A lot of clubs are envious of the facilities at Mowden Park but even more are envious of the ethos at the Avenue. Dale outplayed Park for the first 45 minutes of the game. When the home side rallied and fought back into the game it looked like the visitors had blown it. A 7-24 lead had turned into a 26-24 deficit. The last few minutes were all about the Greens wanting to win.
The weather improved and a large contingent of the faithful was treated to a glimpse of the sun after leaving a gloomy Dale in the morning. The management were expecting a tough contest. This was a different Darlington to the side that visited the Avenue in early September. It was the visitors however who made the brighter start against a somewhat lack lustre home team.
Darlington took possession of the ball from the kick off but were forced to chip the ball as the Dale defence was too strong. A series of indiscretions by Park led to Dale having a 5 metre line out. The ball was won and the drive ended with a dart from Dan Solomi who opened the scoring for Dale with his first league try of the season. Tom Davidson’s conversion went very close but was marked down as a miss.
Darlington added to their woes from the restart. The ball failed to go 10 metres but Wharfedale played on and when they tried to find space a hack by a
Darlington player went straight into the hands of one of his own players resulting in a penalty! Davidson’s touch kick pushed Darlington back to their own 22. The Green`s line out was again successful and the ball moved across the field. Good support and good running found Solomi wide on the right to run in for his and Dale’s second try. Again Davidson missed making it the maximum.
Dale continued to exert pressure on the Park line and could have had two more tries but for poor finishing in the opposition 22.
Any further pressure was halted when the ref, Fergus Kirby, departed after 16 minutes due to illness. It took a good ten minutes to sort out, and the game resumed with Matthew Daubney, who had started as assistant referee, in charge, and Darlington providing a stand in linesman.
The visitors seemed to lose their focus for a few moments. Poor decision making and poor kicking allowed Park a rare period in Dale’s half. The defence was solid with Solomi showing his worth as a tackler, as well as a scorer, until Park’s number 10, Grant Cannon, exploited a gap in midfield and opened his side’s account adding the extras himself.
Wharfedale ended the half in control and the lead was stretched by a try from Chris Steel, converted by Jamie Guy, to 7-17 at half time. More points had been there for the taking but again Dale were guilty of spilling the ball and also missing a penalty chance.
Wharfedale started the second half where they left off and a good run from Cameron Hudson took the attack into the home 22. A penalty was taken quickly by Solomi who nearly made the line himself. The attack eventually saw another Solomi dart, this time with Steel in attendance, to score his third try and earn a bonus point for the team. Two more points from the boot of Jamie Guy gave Dale a comfortable 17 point lead.
The home side closed the gap after 48 minutes with an unconverted try from George Hedgley. More pressure came from Park and, when Ian Larkin was yellow carded, they made excellent use of superior numbers with two tries, one from Jack Allcock and a deserved penalty try awarded for the second. Connon converted both to give Darlington the lead for the first time in the match.
With a full side Dale steadied the ship and Jamie Guy gave the visitors that slender victory with a well taken penalty, in the 79th minute, for a great five pointer away from home.
It was great to witness. A bit of a heart stopper at the end but because of our dominance in the first half a fair result. The yellow card clearly affected the balance of the match – Ian Larkin was told by the official that it was given for “lazy running”.
Coach, Jon Feeley, commented “Saturday was an important win in terms of our relative league positions, but it was more important for us to continue the momentum we have been building over the last few weeks. The players have been working very hard and the understanding between them is getting much better. I thought we showed great maturity in the patience we showed at the end of the game to firstly win the penalty, then retain possession to see time out.
The change of referee was definitely a turning point, we had played all the rugby up to that point and were in a commanding position and lead. The break saw them regroup and respond well. After half-time we got the chance to reassess and came out well to score first. The yellow card gave them an opportunity which to their credit they took advantage of, but our character and determination won through. The lineout was outstanding all day and the backs got us over the gain line with some great lines. For Jamie to show such nerve to kick that goal was fantastic. The whole squad were great but Jack Barnard’s effort was phenomenal.
Can I also just thank the travelling support who came up to Darlington, before kick off the boys in the changing room were actually saying how it felt more like a home game with the numbers who had followed us up and the noise they were making. Have a great Christmas.”
Skipper, James Doherty, also took time out to say “The game last Saturday was a reflection of our season so far in some respects, fantastic at times and then some inaccuracies that cost us dearly. But overall the grit and determination we had to get the result was a credit to everyone involved, and just deserts for all the travelling support which all the players appreciated.
The second half was poor by our standards at times and it’s a hard game with 15 never mind 14, but again our attitude to regain the lead was tremendous.
We are by no means playing complete rugby 100% of the time but, at the half way point of the season, we are in a place where we can build. We have a great group of players, a brilliant ethos and that is something money cannot buy. Have a good Christmas”
On behalf of the travelling faithful I would like to thank both Jon and James for their comments about the support. I, Gordon Brown and Chris Elwood have often commented, in our previews and reports, about the role played by the crowd. It is very gratifying to see the role recognised. I would hope to see a massive turn out, and a vociferous shed, on January 3rd when we take on Tynedale.
Wharfedale: Taylor Prell; Lloyd Davies, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson (Huw Morgan 61), Oli Cicognini; Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c); Chris Steel (Joe Altham 59), Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 38), Jake Armstrong, Adam Howard, Alex Powell (James Tyson 69), Dan Solomi (James Tyson 59, Dan Stockdale 67, Matt Beesley 67), Jack Barnard, Josh Burridge.
The timings of the substitutions are from the official sheet.