A game of fast open rugby was won by the home side due to their dominance of the first half which saw them go in 24 – 0. The Darlington forwards looked strong for a lengthy period of the second half, and with the gap narrowed to 31-21, looked for a bonus try and to get even closer. A breakaway try from Dan Tai seemed to finish them off and another quick attack from Dale led to a Penalty Try and gave Dale a comfortable victory.
Wharfedale Head Coach, Tom McGee, summed up the victory by saying “We’ve had some disappointments and dents to confidence through September into October with results, scoreboards and injuries, That will happen in the course of a season – that’s sport. The only theme through the week was “FIND A WAY TO WIN”. That theme was based on attitude in defence. We backed that up with what we did from 3 – 4:40 when actions matter”
The opening 17 minutes were close with neither side able to break the deadlock.
Dale’s opening try came from a good Darlington clearance into Dale territory. Josh Burridge caught the ball in touch and fired a quick line out to James Doherty. Doherty linked with Max Wright who then fed Dan Tai. Tai’s speed took the ball into the visitor’s 22. Quick recycled ball was then moved right through the hands of George Hedgley, Ian Larkin, Jim Mason and Matt van Sertima before finding Ali Wade on the right hand wing to touch down.
Wharfedale’s second score started on their own 22 with a Darlington line out. They won it and got a good catch and drive on. Loose ball was then hacked away by Dale and good harassing took the ball into Darlington’s half. A kick straight into touch meant that the home side had turned defence into attack. The line out, which purred all afternoon, duly delivered the ball and a penalty was won which Jamie Guy sent the ball deep into Park’s 22 for an attacking 5 metre line out. Good ball was swung right and a penalty was given under the posts. A quick tap led to another penalty and a yellow card to Darlington prop, Gareth Nesbitt. Guy added the three points.
A minute later Dale scored again. From the kick off Doherty put up a box kick. Howick and Tai followed up and did enough to create havoc. Huw Morgan collected the ball and fed Max Wright who was strong and fast enough to finish off the defence.
After a very poor Darlington restart the Green machine won the resulting scrum and Rob Baldwin burst through before feeding James Doherty who spun through tackles to score. With Guy again accurate Wharfedale went in leading 24-0.
Darlington’s forwards tested the Green Machine at the end of the first half putting in 10 phases at the river end before committing an error.
In the second half, replacement Simon Uzokwe, brought on after 49 minutes, immediately made an impact and his urgency led to a try which opened Darlington’s account, Garry Law slotted the extras.
The Green Machine answered with a catch and drive of their own which resulted in Nathan Myers going over. With Uzokwe leading the charge Darlington surged back into the game with converted tries from Benjamin Frankland and a second for Uzokwe. The pressure leading to Uzokwe’s score led to Cameron Hudson picking up a yellow card. With Law’s conversions the score was now 31-21 and the visitors were sensing a bonus point, perhaps two or even a win.
Their fourth try looked on as they again pressed the attack into Dale’s 22. Debutant prop, Ric Cano, noticed that the ball was loose and pounced on it. Not only that but Cano quickly fed Dan Tai. He raced 90 metres to score and break the spirit of the Darlington players. Dale then attacked again and were soon camped on Darlington’s try line. Strong play led to a Penalty Try and a Yellow Card for Garry Law.
Dale’s final flourish finished off a good day at the Avenue and a first home win for the Greens.
Club captain, James Doherty, reflected “There were moments during the game when we were extremely accurate, creative and played with great pace. However, the most pleasing aspect was the defensive efforts in the first half especially, to keep repelling the DMP attack time after time shows what character and attitude the boys possess. It was great to finally put in a performance at the Avenue. The support was excellent and walking off the field with smiles on faces is what it’s all about.”
Mcgee added “I can say categorically it’s what people don’t appreciate what the lads are bringing back every Tuesday, Thursday into Saturday in terms of attitude, willingness to listen, learn and improve is unquestionable. Our big focus moving forward is to develop our defence to our stronghold so we are respected as an honest team, hard to break down, who can also punish you with the ball.
This group of players have ability, have strengths and have desire. We need to understand as a club that patience and perseverance is going to be required at times – if we back, support these young fellas they will give it back in the green, along with some all-out attacking rugby. I want the players to trust, believe in their ability, instincts and to play the rugby they want to.
We’re under no illusions how tough it’ll be this week against Blackheath, arguably the form side in the comp, but let’s back our guys to have a go, take it to them, FIND A WAY TO WIN!!”
On a personal note can I apologise to the Darlington lads for the opening line in the Rugby Paper that said that Wharfedale won at a canter. These were not the words of your humble reporter as until Tai broke clear in the 76th minute it was a close call.
Wharfedale Altham (Cano 54), Larkin (Stockdale 48), Wade (Altham 76), Mason, Hedgley, Burridge, Howick (Myers 48), Baldwin, Doherty (c), Guy, Van Sertima, Morgan, Wright (Hudson 63), Tai, Labasse. Replacement not used Skelton
A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.