Wharfedale 12 – 20 Preston Grasshoppers

Dale’s hopes of playing fast open rugby were dampened by heavy rain and a heavy Hoppers pack. The visitors dominated the scrum and played to the conditions better than the home side. Wharfedale continued to try to play attractive rugby but were starved of possession in the first half which was just won by Preston.

The afternoon opened under dark skies and the two teams setting out their stalls. A Preston scrum led to a penalty. From the line out their catch and drive took them a further 10 metres. but when they tried to run the ball a tackle from Scott Jordan led to a turn over. Dale then spread the play and forced a penalty which Tom Barrett slotted from 37 metres.

Dale attempted to attack with every scrap of possession and only the elements seemed to frustrate them with the ball becoming a difficult slippery missile.

Again it was Preston’s forwards that were pushing the home side back and they ended with a 5 metre attacking scrum. Penalties followed and the platform provided for Preston’s No. 8, Sam Gales, to crash over. Having already missed a penalty kick Lewis Allen also missed the conversion.

The game continued as it had started with the Preston pack rumbling on whilst Dale were attempting to play fast open rugby. One of the best moves of the game from Wharfedale was only thwarted by a superb cover tackle. Hoppers cleared the ball to Scott Jordan who ran the ball back and set up a ruck. Barrett set himself and sent over a superb drop goal from 43 metres.

The visitors grabbed a deserved lead just before half time with a 40 metre penalty kick from Allen.

Dale opened up the second half on the attack and swept up to the opposition 22. A penalty seemed scant reward for such enterprise but the three points were accepted with Barrett again successful.

The Preston restart was taken at the gallop by Man of the Match, George Hedgley, who surged through the Preston defence. Dale had the better of nearly the first 30 minutes of the second half with only brief periods spent in their own half. It seemed again that only handling the bar of soap would stop them from extending their lead. As it was, the only reward for this domination was another Barrett penalty to extend Dale’s lead to six points.

Hoppers got into Dale’s 22 when a kick ahead went into touch off a Wharfedale player. Having won the line out they then won a scrum. A penalty followed and Hoppers opted for another scrum. What followed turned the game on it’s head.

Having only given away one penalty at the set piece in the second half, in fact Dale seemed to have steadied the ship, a Yellow Card was produced and replacement prop James Huck was sent to the bin. As starting prop, Ian Larkin had a neck injury, Dale then fell foul of the regulations as they had to play with only 13 men when they were forced to send another player to the sidelines for being unable to provide a front row. After dominating territory and possession in the second half to establish a 12-8 lead they then conceded two tries.

The first from the ensuing line out when they drove over with Christian Taylor being credited with the try. Allen slotted from the tee. The second Preston try utilised the two-man advantage and a sweeping move to the right gave them a two man overlap and a superb score.

The Green Machine did not deserve to win the match as there were too many mistakes. Stats can be deceptive or shed a new light. Read them as you will. The pack, with many spectators shaking their heads, were 100% at the scrums and won 12 out of 14 line outs. In the second half they actually had Preston going backwards a couple of times.

They never lacked enterprise and even after the injured Jimmy Bullough was replaced with Scott Jordan at scrum half they still showed the urge to run the ball at every opportunity. Tom Barrett had a great opening game and it was good to see the drop goal is still part of his weaponry.

Wharfedale Head Coach, James Doherty, commented “You will not find excuses from me. Our scrum wasn’t good enough and we made too many unforced errors creating pressure on ourselves. We did create a number of chances and looked very dangerous at times but our skill level was not up to scratch. Preston had a simple but effective plan and executed it well. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We will continue to work hard in training to improve and concentrate on the next game”.


H. Bullough (Guy 40); Cicognini, Jordan, Hodgson, R. Davidson; Barrett, J. Bullough (Prell 52); Larkin (Huck 40), Stockdale, Bradshaw, Ward, Hedgley, Oxley (Allen 42), Wilson, Burridge. Replacement not used J. Parkinson.

A selection of photographs is available under the Photos tab.

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