Wharfedale 8 Esher 6
Wharfedale took the honours in a match that was competitive from the start. The defences of both sides were magnificent and this was the reason for a low score and only one try.
Esher had the advantage of the slope and the breeze in the first half and as Esher coach, Michael Schmid, said after the game, they created chances to score but careless mistakes cost them dearly.
They could have been 10 -15 points up at half time but poor finishing restricted them to two penalties from the boot of Ian Cross.
Esher’s best chance came after ten minutes. A clearance from Wharfedale failed to find touch and Esher ran the ball back into Dale’s 22. Recycled ball was then quickly moved right and a break in the centre exposed Wharfedale’s defence for the only time in the match. With the line begging the scoring pass was thrown harmlessly into touch.
Wharfedale went into half time trailing by a point. A catch and drive was finished off by Dan Solomi. Esher held on to the lead as Jamie Guy’s conversion just slid past the posts, a good effort into a difficult breeze.
The home side could have also scored another before the interval. Esher’s restart was fielded by Lloyd Davies and he set Taylor Prell off on one of his electrifying runs. The only mistake was what seemed to be the scoring pass to Oli Cicognini. The winger had to go for a very low ball and ended up on the floor and was soon enveloped by a regrouped Esher defence. Dale’s reward was a penalty against Esher for off side. Tom Davidson pushed the ball into Esher’s 22 for an attacking line out. A poor line out gave Esher breathing space and they soon cleared. The only yellow card of the game was given to Wharfedale’s Taylor Prell for foul play. Prell had been guilty of contact with a player in the air earlier in the half. The referee after consulting both assistants decided he was guilty again and a ten minute rest was the result.
The second half was another thrilling period of old fashioned rugby. Defences stood tall. Both sides tried to use the ball and get width, but tackling was resolute and attacks rebuffed.
The only score of the second half came in the fourth minute. Wharfedale won a five metre line out but the catch and drive was held. Dale’s pick and go was scrappy but the Southerners allowed them a moderately easy shot at goal by going offside.
Wharfedale attacked again from restart and good work from Davidson, Taylor Prell and Cicognini took the play into the visitor`s 22. Quick ball from the break down was used well and a try looked on until the ball was spilled in midfield. This period of Wharfedale possession saw the Green’s backs opening up and combining well with the forwards.
Esher also had periods of keeping the ball but failed to break through.
A game fought at close quarters often leads to ill feeling but both teams held their self discipline. The game was generally allowed to flow, a comparison to the fussy whistle blowing of recent weeks. The packs were allowed to compete and the Wharfedale eight gradually began to hold the upper hand.
There were problems for both sides in the line out with the breeze pushing the longer throw off line. Wharfedale took 14 out of 18 (78%) of their own ball with a not straight and illegal movement from the thrower costing them 2. Esher were much higher with 10 out of 11 (91%), only losing one which was given not straight.
It was not an easy job to pick a Man of the Match as this was a team effort. Cameron Hudson edged the decision for his tackling and his good work in the line.
The narrow win gave Dale a valuable four points and another step towards retaining their National One status. They are now fifteen points clear of the relegation zone and winning the next two home games could see them reach safety.
Jon Feely reflected “The boys were shattered after the game and nursing sore bodies reflecting just how attritional the game was. Esher were direct with their carriers and tested us physically, to not concede a try deserves recognition. In such a tight game against a well organised and experienced side like Esher, we had to concentrate for the full duration. But credit to us, we held our nerve and saw the game through to an important win. Although the slope is a factor at The Avenue, it doesn’t win games, teams do, and this team showed a great deal of discipline in the second half to keep the vast majority of the play in the Esher half. Although their defensive effort was a credit to them, our retention for extended periods took the game away from Esher and energy out of their attack”
Skipper, James Doherty, commented that he was “Absolutely delighted with a much needed 4 points. Although everyone in the club house had their way of winning that game we did it our way, we worked hard and defended heroically. We played an astute territory game in the second half. At this stage in the season a win is 4 points in the paper, regardless of performance, our stretched squad is performing admirably, and it is not as easy as some people make out. A fantastic atmosphere at the Avenue, let’s keep this going for the next 2 home games”
A disappointed Esher coach, Michael Schmid, reflected on that his side had created in the first half. “We knew we had to be 10 – 15 points clear (by half time) as we had the advantage of the slope and the breeze. We blew our chances” He was impressed with “Wharfedale’s team spirit in the second half” and this had given them the edge in the match.
A selection of photographs from the match is available via the gallery tag near the top of the page.
Wharfedale: Taylor Prell (Josh Prell 66); Lloyd Davies, Cameron Hudson, Tom Davidson, Oli Cicognini; Jamie Guy, James Doherty (c); Matt Beesley (Matt Freeman 59), Ian Larkin (Dan Stockdale 59), Jake Armstrong (Joe Altham 65), Adam Howard (Matt Beesley 65, Matt Beesley77), Simon Willet, Jack Barnard, Dan Solomi, Jim Mason (Alex Powell 56).