On a gloomy afternoon at the Avenue spirits were lifted for the home support with a whole hearted performance by the Greens. The battlements are being restored as the Avenue is regaining the name Fortress Wharfedale with three home wins in a row. Richmond started the day fifth from top and Wharfedale 5th from the bottom and the faithful turned up with some apprehension. The sixteenth man, despite being fewer in number than usual, was in good voice and urged the Green Machine on to a sensational victory. The players came off the pitch to a fine ovation and responded by applauding the crowd.
The result could have been different if Richmond had been more precise in finishing off well constructed moves. Pressure from the home side’s defence kept them in the game and then they managed to get Star Man Taylor Prell into space twice in the last 5 minutes. The first break led to a penalty try and a yellow card and then he wrapped up the game with another excellent run from half way, chipping the full back and gathering the ball to score under the posts.
Richmond Director of Rugby, Stephen Hill, commented after the game that he was frustrated with his team’s performance. “We had been in a position to win the game but our precision let us down when we had opportunities to score”. He had been “pleased with the effort and work rate of the team in a game that had been easy to defend and attack” he finished by saying that “We had allowed Wharfedale to stay in the game and at the end Taylor Prell took his chances well”.
As the game developed there was a strong sense of belief that this was a game that the Greens could win. Taylor Prell was, in terms of the Rugby Paper, the star man, but this was because he won the match for Wharfedale with two sparkling breaks near the end. Until then there were other contenders for the title.
The whole pack lifted themselves for the task and matched Richmond in the tight, most noticeably in the seventh minute when they drove on the visitors put in and forced a penalty. Keeping up the momentum Tom Davidson put the ball in the corner for an attacking lineout.
A successful catch and drive forced Josh Burridge over for the first score. Davidson’s attempted conversion looked good put slid past the upright on the wrong side.
This was early reward for Burridge who belies his young age and seems to have taken on the role at number 8 with enthusiasm and energy. He worked tirelessly for 80 minutes and would have been a strong contender for the man of the match.
Wharfedale had kickable penalty chances during this period but opted for the attacking lineout. Hindsight is a well known expert and Dale have to be praised for their ambition but it would have been good to have got the points on the board and extend the lead. As it was the line out returned to its state earlier in the season and the chances went astray.
Richmond were limited in their attacking chances but when they resisted throwing the ball away they scored two tries before half time to lead by 14 points to 5. James Faulkner and Jamie Gibbs crossed to score with Thomas Platt converting both.
The home side scored first in the second half with an Oliver Cicognini try which Tom Davidson converted before adding a penalty to edge Dale into a one point lead. The try was one of the highlights of the afternoon. Dale had another attacking line out 10 metres from the visitor’s line which they lost. The clearance found Lloyd Davies who ran the ball back with interest. Taylor Prell joined the move before passing to Cicognini for a marvellous try near the touchline.
Wharfedale were playing well and forcing mistakes and gaining field position. Having taken the lead they then committed a series of mistakes themselves, squandering the ball and field position, and allowing Richmond to score. From a lineout on Richmond’s 22 a catch and drive pulled the defenders in and then the backs were brought into play. A wild pass in midfield sent Dale back to half way but with a Richmond knock on they had a chance to regroup.
The forwards seemed to fall asleep and allow Richmond to take one against the head. Good support play and handling led to an unconverted try from Tim Walford. This took Richmond back into the lead before Prell made his decisive moves.
Wharfedale skipper, James Doherty, was delighted after the match with the team. “We had our backs to the wall at times, but worked as a team and the lads responded and turned defence into attack”. He highlighted Josh Burridge’s work in the maul and finished by saying that Taylor Prell’s second break (which led to the bonus point fourth try) was the icing on the cake.
Jon Feeley was also full of praise for the work rate and effort of his players. He congratulated the obvious class of one individual but stressed that it was the “platform laid by others which led to giving Taylor Prell the space and room to show his class” he continued by saying “there were errors to work on, especially in the line out,” but he could not fault the spirit and effort of the team. They were working as a collective group. He finished by saying that “it had been a testing time for the team and the boys deserved the win”.
This was indeed a team performance involving all 20 players who all showed that they could perform at this level. The work of the front row was key and, apart from taking the odd siesta a couple of times, put Richmond on the back foot. Until the brilliance of Taylor Prell at the end the man of the match could have gone to many players especially the props and members of the back row.
Wharfedale: Taylor Prell; Lloyd Davies, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson, Oli Cicognini; Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c) (Philip Woodhead 63); Chris Steel (Joe Altham 40), Dan Stockdale (Ian Larkin 51), Jake Armstrong (Matt Beesley 51), Jim Mason, Alex Powell (Jake Armstrong 60, Chris Steel 76), Dan Solomi (Chris Howick 63), Jack Barnard, Josh Burridge.