Darlington Mowden Park 36 – 26 Wharfedale

12 Men Secure Vital Bonus Point

Wharfedale travelled up the AI to the Northern Echo Arena encouraged by strong performances in their last two matches, but fully aware of the challenge of taking on the League’s form team who had recorded 9 wins on the trot. That task became immeasurably harder after only 3 minutes when Josh Burridge was red-carded in trying to prevent Mowden Park scrum half Matt Walsh scoring after he pounced on a loose ball which squirted out of a scrum on the Wharfedale line. With a conversion by the impressive Warren Seals, it was 7-0 to Park and Dale had hardly touched the ball.

Reduced to 14 men, Dale were under immense pressure immediately from the restart – a penalty to Park for Burridge’s offence allowing them to kick deep for possession from a line-out in the Dale 22. Quick ball from a ruck and winger Peter Homan came into the line to score wide on the right. Seals missed the kick. From the restart, Dale established a position in the home 22 but sloppy line-out work allowed Park to escape. Dale then conceded two penalties in quick succession and from a tap penalty near the Dale line, flanker Simon Uzokwe powered over in the corner. The conversion was again missed but the home team had their tails up at 17-0 after 17 minutes. Dale had to dig deep to prevent further damage and the response was outstanding, with George Hedgley having an excellent game against his old club and Jack Barnard and Chris Howick tackling furiously to stem the tide.

Dale clawed their way back and were pressing in the home 22 after a fine break by the impressive young Jordon Poole and some urgent prompting by skipper James Doherty but Max Labasse was bundled into touch allowing Park to clear. On 27 minutes, Park were penalised for offside on the 10m line. A quick tap by Doherty and the ball was fed to Harry Bullough who hit the line at pace to set up a ruck on the Park line. A quick feed saw Ricky Cano charging up to crash over by the post. Jamie Guy added the conversion. Now Dale were on the board and playing with pace and aggression, with Jack Barnard at the heart of everything. An already battered Chris Howick was taken off to be replaced by Jarad Williams, a new loan signing from Yorkshire Carnegie, who immediately made his presence felt with a powerful drive from the base of the scrum to feed Ollie Fewtrell who made a clean break up the middle but his attempted offload was intercepted. When the rattled Park defence was penalised, the penalty was taken quickly by Doherty who was brought down 5 metres short. 3 phases later, Jack Barnard crossed wide out to make the score 17-12. Guy missed the kick, but this was now a real contest. In injury time, Dale were penalised for a high tackle; Park kicked for the corner and an efficient catch and drive saw Uzokwe claim his second try to leave the half time score 22-12.

Park set the second half in motion reclaiming a kick-off after some sloppy handling by Dale but a loose ball in midfield was hacked through by Phil Woodhead and Dale were on the attack, with sustained pressure until George Hedgley was forced into touch and Park cleared their lines. Dale attacked again and, after a penalty for offside, Hedgley won a clean line-out on the 22 and Jarad Williams broke from the back of the driving maul and through two tackles on his way to the line. A conversion by Guy and Dale were only 3 points behind at 22-19. The game then swung from end to end with Park spurning two clear chances to score either side of strong Dale pressure denied by aggressive Park defence, including a yellow card for Uzokwe after a late hit on Doherty.

Gradually, the effort of being a man short for an hour began to tell and Park gained the upper hand, particularly after Cano and Poole were replaced. On 62 minutes, Park pushed Dale off scrum ball on their own line and no 8 Ollie Hodgson drove over. With a conversion by Seals, the home side led 29-19. With Uzokwe back on the field, Park began to exert more pressure with Seals controlling midfield and powerful runs by Woodhouse and Henry putting Dale on the retreat, despite some outstanding defensive work by the midfield three of Jamie Guy, Cameron Hudson and Ollie Fewtrell. On 73 minutes, Dale were penalised for dropping a scrum on their own line. A catch and drive from the resulting penalty/line-out and flanker Luca Petillo touched down, converted by Seals for 36-19. Dale had hardly touched the ball for 15 minutes and were desperate for possession to counter-attack when the game started to unravel with a couple of off the ball incidents. On 78 minutes, George Hedgley was involved in a scuffle with Park second row Rob Conquest and, at the intervention of the touch judge, both were sin-binned. A minute later, a further fracas resulted in Steve Graham and Park’s Garry Law also being sin-binned. Now playing twelve against thirteen, Jamie Guy drove Dale forward with a penalty to touch for a line-out where Matt Beesley took over the throwing duties with aplomb; a further period of Dale pressure and Matt van Sertima squeezed over for a richly-deserved bonus point try, converted by Jamie Guy for a final score of 36-26.

Overall, as skipper James Doherty said, when faced with a situation that “could have been a cricket score, the character and resolve shown by the whole squad was outstanding. We regrouped and to come away with a vital bonus point was just reward not only for the players and coaches but for the numerous supporters who made the journey across.” Yet again, the players were a huge credit to the club and the support of the travelling fans was greatly appreciated.

Wharfedale: H Bulllough (M van Sertima 51), M Labasse, C Hudson, O Fewtrell, P Woodhead, J Guy, J Doherty (capt), C Steel (J Altham 38 – 69), J Poole (S Graham 60), R Cano (M Beesley 46), G Hedgley, A Powell (C Howick 68), J Barnard, C Howick (J Williams 30), J Burridge.

A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.

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