This report is dedicated to those Wharfedale supporters who travelled to Darlington back in September. Compared with that performance, the Foresters were transmogrified and in this blood and thunder encounter, asked for and gave no quarter. The same comment equally applies to DMP, an extremely good and powerful team, who this year, in matches played, have amassed 544 points against 127. A Cock of the North contest indeed.
Despite the terrible weather and in front of a good crowd, we were treated to combative rugby at its best. From the word go it was obvious this game would be decided in the forwards, the conditions determined that and ten man rugby can be very effective and crowd warming on nights such as this. The first ten minutes were tight, no side gaining advantage although quickly apparent that the team playing towards the river, in the first half Darlington, would have an advantage in the scrums.
Despite this the Greens attacked the visitors line and once more that will of a wisp Tom Whyte went over for yet another five points to add to his collection. The conversion was missed but welcome points were on the board. Darlington responded, their scrummaging down the slope quite impressive, resulting in a try which was converted to make it 5-7 to the visitors. Under severe pressure for a period, which was exasperated with a yellow card for Whyte and then what looked to be a quite nasty injury to Will Bell, who was having a fine game in the conditions, the tackling and defensive attributes of the Greens came to the fore and they repulsed Darlington’s efforts magnificently. The front row of Matt Foreman, Jake Parkinson and Matt Beesley solid as ever, whilst locks Simon Borrill and Tom Baines rose to every challenge. The back row of Chris Howick, Tom Whyte and James Tyson tackled like demons, with Howick in particular causing consternation to the visitors pack. Playing with great aggression the home side went in again, this time Joe Altham who had replaced Freeman, diving in; the conversion was missed but the Greens back in front at 10-7.
So to the second period and the slope advantage now with the Foresters. With a full contingent now in place, centre Luke Stevenson slotting in very comfortably at fly half, scrum half Jimmy Bullough chivvying his pack to greater exertions , forward pressure gave Bullough J the opportunity to dive strongly through a ruck of players for a well worked try, converted by Druce. At 17-7 the Greens had a little breathing space, but it didn`t last long. Back again came Darlington with a push-over try, not converted, leaving the board at 17-12. This had become a ding-dong game, with the final outcome impossible to predict. Wharfedale’s replacements were called to duty, always providing that terrific back-up which all teams require. Coming on at different phases were the Altham brothers Joe and George, Rhys Davies, Sam Smith, Ben Parkinson, Max Bell and James Meehan. All contributed to great effect: Smith put in two delightful cover tackles at crucial times; Druce came up with some penetrating runs from the back, and Stevenson in his new position provided relieving kicks when urgently needed.
This was a night when Wharfedale’s ever-alert backs department were there as supporting cast. The night was not meant for free-flowing running rugby but they have another string to their bow, their defence. Wingers Josh Prell and Andrew Foulds, and centre Harry Bullough spent the majority of the game assisting manfully in defensive duties. Harry was correctly yellow-carded in the final few minutes, for ‘professionally’ hanging on to the ball under his own posts in the dying stages, an offence which was probably crucial.
The final whistle brought an end to as hard fought a victory as one could imagine. The Foresters showed what a great team spirit and determination to back each other up they have. Great credit to both sides and despite the weather, ground conditions and overall adverse playing surface, the Foresters proved ,once again, that their spirit is unquenchable and thanks to them and Darlington for warming us up on a cold winters night. The referee should not be forgotten. He, as the players did, made the occasional mistake but overall controlled things fairly and extremely well.
Foresters: Druce, Foulds, Stevenson, Bullough H, Prell, Bell, BulloughJ, Beesley, Parkinson J, Freeman, Borrill, Baines, Hawick, Tyson, Whyte. Replacements, Altham J, AlthamG, Davies, Smith, Kitching, Parkinson B,Bell M, Meehan.