Loughborough Students 29 Wharfedale 15
Skipper, James Doherty, summed up his and everyone’s feelings by saying that this was a “thoroughly disappointing day”.
The front cover of the Loughborough programme showed a picture from last year showing Rob Baldwin, Aaron Myers, Richard Rhodes and Josh Burridge. All four were unavailable for this encounter. Also missing was Adam Howard whose wife had gone into labour and the powerful forward, being a dutiful husband, was in attendance. Jim Mason took his place in the second row with Nathan Myers added to the bench. The faithful however still had high hopes of an away win. This seemed justified as the young side grew in confidence in the first half and went in at half time with a well deserved 15-10 lead.
The students dominated the first 10 minutes and went into a 10 point lead. William Edwards opened the scoring with a penalty after four minutes.
Rhys Owen grabbed the first try which was awarded after a kick ahead. Dale thought the ball had touched the side line and a line out should have followed. The touch judge ignored this and with Dale having stopped, the students pounced on the ball, and swept in for the first try.
When the visitors finally got the ball they started to get the upper hand and spent most of the rest of the half in the student’s backyard. The pack was pushing the students around. They were sometimes hampered by the whistle blower, who, on more than one occasion, awarded a penalty to Loughborough, even though they were retreating and had broken up!
Dale were rewarded with two tries and a penalty.
The two tries were well constructed. Firstly the pack did their work and then the ball was given to the backs. The first try was an inside ball which put Cameron Hudson through and then a well timed pass from Tom Davidson gave Lloyd Davies room to cross. James Guy converted the first try and slotted a penalty in between them.
Dale started the second half strongly and a good follow up by Taylor Prell led to an attacking 5 metre scrum. Wharfedale spilled the ball and Loughborough cleared.
For the rest of the half Dale struggled to contain the students who ran in 19 unanswered points with tries from Henry Taylor, Yzannis Lozzias and Jack Pons. William Edwards slotted two out of three conversions to make the score 29-15. The first score came after a hint of obstruction (called crossing by most spectators). The second two were soft tries and could have been stopped by more resolute tackling.
There were positives to bring back to the Avenue. Wharfedale made handling errors but one thing that has blighted the team this season is being caught in possession and not getting to ground. This was absent from this match and no Wharfedale player was held up. With most of Dale’s line out specialists missing, the line out was good, winning 72% of our own ball. Not as good as the home side who managed 80%, only losing one and having a second called for not being straight. The Green Machine was strong at the set piece and had Loughborough retreating on many occasions.
The pack only lost momentum during the ten minutes that Simon Willet spent in the sin bin. He shared the time with Loughborough’s winger Criag Dowsett. Both seeing yellow for their parts in a melee after 17 minutes in the second half.
Star Man in the Rugby Paper was awarded to Loughborough’s scrum half Henry Taylor. He is a Fine Arts student and a classically trained pianist. He was the key player for the Midlanders. He made breaks that put Dale on the back foot on more than one occasion.
James Doherty added “A sub par performance which we were punished for, lots of individual errors and lacking accuracy at crucial times. We talk about controlling what we can and today we didn’t. A day to put behind us quickly however making sure we learn from it and take it into next week against Old Albanians. It will be nice to be back at the Avenue and I’m expecting a big response.”
Wharfedale: Lloyd Davies (Josh Prell 60): Taylor Prell, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson, Oli Cicognini; Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c); Matt Beesley, Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 24, Dan Stockdale 59), Jake Armstrong, Jim Mason (Nathan Myers 59), Simon Willet, Jack Barnard, Dan Solomi, Alex Powell (Joe Altham 40). Replacement not used Mat Freeman