22 August - Foresters 14-6 North Ribblesdale ----    24 August - Blaydon 34-24 Wharfedale ----

Esher 26 Wharfedale 8

Esher 26 Wharfedale 8

A more spirited performance by Wharfedale still ended with Esher grabbing a 5 point win and Dale travelling back up the M1 with only congratulations from the Esher supporters for the way they contributed to a fine open game of rugby.

Dale had their share of possession and territory but lacked the clinical finishing shown by the southerners.

Esher had the strong breeze in the first half and led 14-3.

Their two tries came from centre, Joseph Brown, who joined the line at pace and two clean breaks allowed him to touch down under the posts. Alistair Chisholm slotted both conversions. Dale’s only score was a penalty from Lloyd Davies.

The visitors had chances to score in the second half and the score may just have flattered Esher. Harry Lightfoot-Brown scored first for Esher before Wharfedale crossed to bring their travelling support hope of a revival. Andy Hodgson scooped up a low pass and went through the defence. The wind got the better of both conversion attempts.

Esher showed more decisive finishing when Alistair Chisholm scored their fourth try which he also converted.

The Green machine put lots of effort in but lacked the cutting edge to break down a resolute Esher defence.

If there was a major difference between the teams it was the line out. Esher’s was nigh insuperable only losing one and having another called for not straight. This gave them an 86% success rate. Dale however stuttered to an embarrassing 55% success rate, surely something that can be improved. It was noted that Esher used the 2 ball on most occasions and this gave them more control.

The Green machine certainly matched Esher up front and ended as the dominant pack in the scrum. This led to Esher being penalised 16 times to Dale’s 7. Esher got a warning in the first half just before Josh Burridge was yellow carded for allowing a “player to fall over his leg”.

Esher did earn a yellow card in the second half when James Doherty was cynically stopped from scoring after a quick tap and go penalty. Why the penalty try was not awarded is again a mystery but it was soon followed up by veteran Hodgson picking the ball off his toes to score.

Esher’s back division showed much more cohesion than Dale. At times the Green`s wedge defence was not coordinated. In attack it showed which was the set of backs that had not been together before. Injuries have wrecked havoc in the backs all season and although there were strong individual performances at times this promising group of players need match time to learn about each other and grow in confidence.

Dale deserved nothing against Macclesfield last week but this was a performance that was worthy of the Green shirt. Many players were downhearted afterwards with the tag of gutsy performers, and the urge to win is still there.

The day had been a long affair. Starting off with a fire alarm at 8.10am as somebody had burnt their toast (none of the players have owned up yet!) and ending with the slog up the M1. It was good to hear the team and coaches engaged in some rousing singing as the refreshments started to kick in.

Wharfedale skipper, James Doherty, commented “Although the score line may not look too pretty this was a hugely improved performance and anyone who watched the game will tell you we played our part in a great game. Some of our ambition was commendable and it was a great response to the disappointment of last week. We are fully committed to the end of the season with a lot to play for still. Let’s sign off at the avenue with a bang.”

Coach, Jon Feeley, also reflected “What a difference a week can make. After the disappointment of last weeks performance, the adversity we faced this week has brought out the fighting spirit in us. I was proud of how we fought and but for one particular moment in the second half after we had clawed our way back to within 10, we could have won the game. Yet again the youth policy of the club has come through to first team level with young Andrew Hodgson coming in at fly-half after progressing all the way through the minis and juniors, then making an impact with the Forresters. His try showed great skill to pick it up off his toes and cut through. That same desire to fight for each other must again come to the fore on Saturday for the final home game of the season.”

Wharfedale: Tom Davidson (Dan Stockdale 79); Lloyd Davies, Cameron Hudson, Huw Morgan, James Druce; Andrew Hodgson, James Doherty (captain); Matt Beesley, Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 51), Jake Armstrong (Chris Steel 34), Adam Howard (Alex Powell 60), Simon Willet (Jim Mason 67), Jack Barnard (Tom Burridge 72), Dan Solomi, Josh Burridge.

A selection of photographs is available here.