Thursday 22 August - Foresters v North Ribblesdale (H) KO 7.00pm ----    Saturday 24 August - 1st XV v Blaydon (A) KO 2.30pm ----

Wharfedale 38 Loughborough Students 20

Wharfedale 38 Loughborough Students 20

A tremendous ovation greeted the Green Machine as they returned to winning ways at the Avenue. The faithful had been exhorted by Adge to get behind the lads and this they did. Dale played with a sense of conviction that had been lacking recently and made the trip to the Avenue a very pleasant experience for the home support.

Loughborough’s coach, Dave Morris, was warm in giving huge congratulations to Dale saying “their victory was fully deserved, they dominated the set piece and their physicality was the basis of their win”.

Wharfedale started the scoring after a great break from his own 22 by Taylor Prell drew an offside decision against Loughborough. Tom Davidson pushed the ball deep into the opposition 22 and a successful catch and drive led to James Doherty going over behind his pack.

This was Dale’s third lineout and they had won them all. This was a major difference in Wharfedale and evidence of some hard work put in over the last two weeks. This phase of the game was one of the differences between the two sides as Dale’s lineout was nigh perfect whereas the Students lineout was often disrupted.

Dale allowed Loughborough into the game by squandering possession in their own 22 and then being penalised at the scrum. Joshua Sharp accepted the opportunity to open ‘Borough’s score.

The Greens were again pushed back into their own 22 soon after the restart when a Loughborough penalty made good use of the wind. Dale won the lineout but then lost possession. The visitors made good use of an overlap to the left and Jonathan Short, despite a desperate tackle from Taylor Prell, crossed the line wide out to the left.

Wharfedale had now lost the ball twice in defence and on both occasions the visitors added to their tally.

Mistakes from both sides led to a line out in Loughborough’s 22 and a chance for Dale to re-establish their authority. This was the only one that was lost and a grateful defence sent the ball into Dales 22. The Students followed up well and were rewarded with a penalty which was missed. From the 22 drop-out the youngsters ran the ball back well and exerted pressure on the defence. Having dragged players into the ruck the ball was sent to stand off Joshua Sharp who ignored the men outside him to skip through and score under the posts. A flat footed prop had a string of reasons why Sharp got through but the aficionados and cognoscenti in the shed saw it as a bit of a mismatch. “Ten against one, the odds were heavily stacked” was one comment. Sharp added the conversion to give his side a 5-15 lead.

Things could have got worse when the restart was sent straight into touch and having won the scrum Loughborough sent the ball into Dale’s 22.

From here Dale started to build and play with assurity and control. Two penalties later, with good touch kicking and good line out play, Dale were on the attack. More penalties followed and two yellow cards were issued in successive plays to the visitors.

Clever play at the line out by Loughborough gave them relief but they were let down again by their lineout. A scrum to Dale resulted in another penalty. Breaks by Cicognini and Doherty were followed up by Davidson who scored to the right of the posts and went on to add the conversion.

With Loughborough still reduced to 13 men Dale opened the scoring in the second half with a well taken try wide out to the left. Davidson made light of the windy conditions by slotting a superb conversion to give Dale the lead 19-15.

Loughborough continued to be under pressure when they were restored to full strength. With the wind and the slope in their favour Dale went on to dominate the second half.

Tries were scored at regular intervals. The first, bringing a bonus point, resulted from pressure exerted by the forwards producing a massive overlap to the right which saw Scott Jordan crossing for a try which needed none of his usual dancing skills. Davidson just missed from the tee.

The second was pure muscle from the pack as they drove towards the river and Richard Rhodes touched down for a try which Davidson again brilliantly slotted through the uprights from near the touchline.

Wharfedale’s domination of the set piece was again rewarded with a penalty try to which Davidson added the extras.

After the try was scored a melee ensued and, after consultation, Tom Burridge was shown yellow and a penalty awarded from the kick off. Henry Taylor made a superb break from the resulting scrum and got the ball to winger Jonathan Short who scored an unconverted try to finish off the match. There had been individual moments of brilliance from Loughborough and twice they could have scored from long range, only for the scoring pass to have been forward. The second chance was after a super break by scrum half, Henry Taylor, who caused problems all afternoon.

Wharfedale skipper, James Doherty, said after the match that “this was an outstanding performance. It was a great reaction to the disappointments of the last few weeks. There had been full contributions of the whole team from 1 to 20” He went to say that “rugby was a simple game and if we do the simple things right we can build and dominate”. He also highlighted the great work done in the line out.

It was difficult to pick out a single player from a performance like this. This was truly a team effort. The four props were indeed outstanding as was James Doherty behind a strong pack. Taylor Prell made a significant contribution. Luke Stevenson seems to be growing into a stand-off for this level. His distribution was good, tackling secure and he also was on hand to tidy up loose ball. If 10 is tackling, the job is easier outside him and the tackling all along the line was strong.

A confidence booster which hopefully Dale will build on when they travel to Old Albanian next week.

Head Coach, Jon Feeley, commented “there has been a huge amount of hard work from everyone involved over the past month to improve our performance, from the players to the medical staff there has been a huge amount of commitment. But that is what is required to compete at this level and there are more improvements to come. I think the supporters recognised the attitude and resolve of the players and they got the reception they deserved and appreciate, it gives them a real lift. I have told them to enjoy the win. But our focus has already now moved onto Old Albanians and from tomorrow we shall be looking only at that game”

There was a feast of rugby at home with the Forresters entertaining the Loughborough second string and the thirds playing Selby at Wood Lane. Visiting coach, Dave Morris, added to his earlier comments saying “it was a pleasure to bring two sides to Wharfedale. We have a lot of players and it is good to give them a competitive match”. He also thanked Wharfedale for their excellent hospitality.

Wharfedale: Taylor Prell; Scott Jordan (Philip Woodhead 70), Matt Van Sertima, Tom Davidson, Oliver Cicognini; Luke Stevenson, James Doherty (c); Chris Steel (Matt Beesley 41), Ian Larkin (Dan Stockdale 55), Jake Armstrong (Chris Steel 68), Simon Willet (Jim Mason 67), Richard Rhodes, Adam Howard (Tom Burridge 41), Chris Howick, Josh Burridge.