Wharfedale finish with a flourish
Wharfedale threw off the tag of plucky losers in the last league game of the season with a superb display against highly placed Hartpury.
Dale competed from the kick off and had the lion’s share of possession and territory in the first half despite playing up the Yorkshire slope. The only area where the students had the edge was in the scrum.
The resurgent Greens showed intent from the opening minute. Beesley fielded the kick off and charged out of the 22. A box kick from Doherty was followed up by Jake Armstrong and a promising attack was only spoilt when another kick and chase just made the dead ball line.
Jamie Guy took over kicking for touch from the injured Tom Davidson and showed he was capable of high standards. Only one kick failed to find touch and the others kept pushing the dispirited visitors deep into their own 22.
After 14 minutes Guy again pushed Hartpury back with a fine kick. A clever move at the front of the line out led to a break from James Doherty who fed Ian Larkin for Wharfedale’s first try which proved too difficult for Guy to convert.
Hartpury did have the ball in their hands in the first half but were guilty of too many mistakes, surrendering possession back to the eager Yorkshiremen.
Dale’s second try was just reward for their dominance. Doherty had just been denied a try by the referee when he took a quick tap, only metres from the line. With none of the defence 10 metres from the penalty and therefore unable to legally make a tackle, Doherty was penalised for “crossing”. The try came from the clearance by Hartpury. Andrew Hodgson fielded the ball and linked with Huw Morgan and then Doherty. Quick recycled ball led to Jack Barnard crossing in the corner. Again Guy was unsuccessful with the conversion.
The students got on the scoreboard just before half time with a penalty from the boot of Craig Jackson.
The Green machine turned on an exhibition of rugby in the second half giving the students a lesson in discipline, defence and control of the ball. Dale gained control of the set piece and although their lineout creaked a little they again dominated a lacklustre student team.
The introduction of Chris Steel, overjoyed to be scrummaging downhill, immediately gave the Green Machine a reverse of fortune in the tight. Due to another unforced error by Hartpury, Dale had a scrum outside the student’s 22. It was now Wharfedale who were given the penalty which Guy nudged for a 5 metre line out.
Dale allowed Hartpury to clear, but veteran, Andy Hodgson, soon had Dale on the attack again with a break into the visitor`s 22. Again quick recycled ball led to 29 players, the officials, the crowd and even the Commander Terry Virts on the Inernational Space Station seeing a 5 man overlap develop to Wharfedale. Unfortunately it was not spotted by Jim Mason, who, in homage to Tom Davidson, put his head down and went on his own.
Fortunately he set the ball up and further pressure from Barnard and Steel led to desperate defence from Hartpury and a yellow card for Thomas Ailes, their no.6. Superb lineout work led to a Dan Solomi dart from 2 metres, again unconverted, after 46 minutes.
Dale were a little guilty of making mistakes and Hartpury, trailing by 12 points, strove to get something out of the game. A break by Matthew Protheroe took the visitors for a rare visit into Dale’s 22. Then came the lesson in disciplined and organised defence. 16 phases followed but Hartpury could not breach a dry stone wall that was Wharfedale’s defence. Eventually, due to strong tackling from the Dalesmen the mistake was forced and a scrum awarded to Dale – the penalty followed. Dale won the lineout and moved the ball right. From a ruck in midfield Solomi ran in a glorious, bonus point try from 60 metres breaking tackles and rounding the full back as well.
More pressure from Dale led to a penalty try, and another yellow for the students. Jamie Guy converted to make the final score of 29 – 3, a just reward for a magnificent display.
The crowd erupted at the final whistle and the lads were cheered off the field. If there were tears after Macclesfield there were tears after this display as well. Tears of joy however are better and the after match frivolities were savoured by joyful players and supporters. The second team joined in. They were beaten soundly by the “University side” that Hartpury sent but were so grateful of a challenge and even more grateful to having a game.
Many thought this display was the best of the season. It certainly was an afternoon of 20 man rugby. ALL players contributed. Hardly a tackle was missed and the discipline was amazing. Wharfedale only gave away one penalty in the second half and stopped a high scoring student side from crossing their line.
Housewive’s favourite, Dan Solomi, was given the Star Man award in the Rugby Paper. Even Dan thought this was unfair as his was one contribution among many. True. There were many nominations for the award and it would have been fairer to have given it to the team and not go along with the “Star Man” format.
The “new” spine of the backs was formidable. Playing Hodgson at 15 gave the young centres Hudson and Morgan the confidence to show their best. I lost track of how many penalties this combination won by one making the tackle and the other forcing the penalty. All three wingers showed pace on the ball, security under it and solid tackling.
Jamie Guy grew another few feet into the No 10 role and Doherty was Le Petite General himself; guiding, leading, sniping and exhorting (much nicer to the officials too).
The pack grew and grew. Rollicking runs from Howard, Burridge, Barnard, Beesley and Armstrong were supported by Steel, Altham, Mason, Larkin, Stockdale and Willet. Solomi did what Solomi does but also supported play and tackled well.
His two tries made him joint leading try scorer for the season. He shares the honour with well known local lad Mr. P. Try!
Skipper, James Doherty, commented “A fantastic performance and probably our most complete performance of the season, defensively we were solid; we showed good ambition and every single player contributed.
The crowd responded and it was a memorable day all round. It was great to see the bar full and enjoying the band.
I urge all who can make it to get to West Park, Leeds, on Thursday, we need your support and will be giving everything to retain the Yorkshire Cup. Let’s finish with a bang!”
Congratulations to Jake Armstrong for playing in all 30 league matches; commiserations to Tom Davidson who, because of injury in the 79th minute at Esher, only played 29!! There was some suggestion that Armstrong sneakily took him out at Esher – there is no video evidence.
Wharfedale: Hodgson; Davies, Hudson, Morgan, Druce (J. Prell 55); Guy, Doherty; Beesley (Steel 40), Larkin (Stockdale 44), Armstrong (Altham 55, Beesley 75), Howard (Mason 31), Willet (Howard 60), Barnard, Solomi (Willet 69), Burridge
A selection of photographs is available here