First of all let us look at the end of season results as far as the Foresters are concerned . Any and every club would be delighted to have three league wins before the end of April and in winning this game against Ilkley, the Foresters achieved that. They won the Yorkshire Merit League Premiership, which was concluded in December 2016. Then they were victorious in the Northern Pilot League and finally they have now completed the treble with the result against Ilkley meaning the hat trick could be claimed by winning the Yorkshire Merit League – Premiership Conference A. This has been a fantastic performance and the club is justifiably proud of their achievements and it will take a seriously good side to equal this performance.
You are probably now waiting for your scribe to describe this game as one of scintillating Foresters open play for which they are famous, with brilliant individual performances and a game to live up to the reputation they have established for themselves . Sorry but you will be disappointed as this game was error strewn from start to finish and Wharfedale played like a side who had experienced a long and difficult season, which they had, and were tired coming to the end of a terrific run. Ilkley, second in the league didn`t help as they also made so many mistakes. The game became a lottery. The Greens were due to put in a disappointing performance and there is an old saying outlining that good teams learn how to win ugly and that is exactly what happened here. The players themselves knew that this was a poorish performance for them. The only ones to come out of this victory with some credit were the Greens forwards who once again showed their prowess against a heavier pack and at no stage of this game did they appear under any pressure and for large portions were dominant. Reflect back through all the season gone and they have been magnificent. They have never been overawed by size or reputation. This has been the building block for the Foresters success.
Today the front row was Matt Close, Jake Parkinson and Tom Jackson, second row Simon Borrill and Rhys Davies and a back three of Sam Smith, Tom Whyte and Jack Kitching . They have all, at some stage of the season, been a contributory factor in how the Foresters pack has performed. In this game Davies gave a very strong performance and Whyte, as usual, was dominant in line out duties assisted by Borrill. The Foresters coaches have worked well here and credit to them.
The backs were not at the races today and had, in the main, poor ball retention and fell off tackles far too easily. Ben Parkinson at full back was probably the closest to standards expected and made some strong runs throughout the contest. The half back combination was Rory Mcnabb and fly half Andy Rhodes who did try to motivate the three-quarter line, consisting of wingers Oliver Whyte and Ralph Wellock, and centres Mark Simpson and Sam Mason. Today was not one the backs would put up as an example of their undoubted ability and the many Wharfedale supporters who attended were somewhat disappointed. Emphasis has to be placed on the fact that this was not the Foresters at their best but still they came away with a hard fought win and all of us remember some of the brilliant victories they have achieved throughout 2016/17.
Enough of all that, what about the game itself? The Greens set off full of vim and vitality and after a brilliant scrum drive up popped Jake Parkinso , who else, to go over for the first five points. Andy Rhodes , who for him, had a difficult kicking day, missed the conversion but the visitors were on the board 5-0. Soon after a lovely cross field kick by Simpson was gobbled up by Ollie Whyte, again not converted but in quick time 10-0 to the Greens . This could have been the Foresters undoing as they became very sloppy in all aspects of their play, possibly thinking it was going to be easy and at times resembled the Harlem Globe Trotters in their attempts to off load the ball when attacking and after several fumbles Ilkley fired back, gratefully accepting the opportunity to go in at the far corner. The conversion was missed. 10-5. Wharfedale went in again when, after possibly a lucky bounce in mid-field, the Greens, for a spell, handled well to put Jake Parkinson over for another try. 15-5.
Never able to totally dominate, the Greens had a series of poor tackles enabling Ilkley to come back with an unconverted try. Now 15-10 to the visitors . It was seriously uncharacteristically sloppy and another series of mistakes allowed the home side to break away for an unconverted try and 15-15. Ilkley were awarded a penalty just before half time, for a rather amateurish foul tackle and took in a half time lead of 18-15.
In the second half, after undoubtedly strong words from coach Metcalfe another good drive by the Wharfedale pack allowed Rhodes to dive in at the corner and his conversion attempt unluckily hit the post. Shortly after the same player showed fine opportunism by finding three gaps in the Ilkley defence and went in for a lovely try under the posts. He converted and the Greens were sailing at 27-18. The drama was far from finished however, as Close was yellow carded. Ilkley had a kickable penalty which was missed but then managed to sneak in for a converted try and a score of 27-25 to the visitors. Had the penalty been successful, then Ilkley would have pinched the result. It was that kind of match. Not quality rugby, but as a competition, exciting.
Much acclaim has been made this season regarding the Foresters bench and today was no exception with Jimmy Meehan, Morgan Davies, Jake Starkey and Ben Booth giving invaluable contributions when introduced. Davies in particular deserves special mention for several bulldozing breaks and good handling abilities, Coach Robbie Burnett, also on the bench, was not utilised . The coaches John Metcalfe and Robbie Burnett, whilst not over the moon with the performance of their charges did accept that they gave 100% and kept their concentration at most critical stages.
Our thanks to the squad for giving us so many exciting and entertaining moments throughout this season; to the coaches for their contributions and a big thank you for the treble ! You are above everything else a true team. Big thanks also to the number of Wharfedale supporters who turned up in force to support the team.
Team: – Matt Close, Jake Parkinson, Tom Jackson, Simon Borrill, Rhys Davies, Sam Smith, Tom Whyte, Jack Kitching, Rory Mcnabb, Andrew Rhodes, Oliver Whyte, Mark Simpson, Sam Mason, Ralph Wellock, Ben Parkinson.
Replacements:- Jimmy Meehan, Morgan Davies, Jake Starkey, Ben Booth . Not used -Robbie Burnett.