A Sports Psychologist would have a field day with the Foresters players. Half of their season is spent playing games that are glorified practice matches and the remainder are proper matches. They have to switch accordingly to the right frame of mind. This was a truly proper match.
The Greens came away with a victory due to a good all round team performance and commitment to the cause for a pulsating eighty minutes. The game opened at a frantic pace, normally the home side’s prerogative but in this instance the visitors set the tone and the Greens had to withstand pressure with good tackling and defensive cohesion. Lloyd Davies made several crunching tackles and the forwards, as a unit, would not break. From a solid set piece the Greens forwards rumbled and Tom Whyte went over for a deserved try, converted by James Druce who certainly had his kicking boots on today.
The pack, with a front row of George Altham, Jake Parkinson and Matt Freeman, well supported by second row Rhys Davies and Simon Borrill had by this time begun to show the Students that Wharfedale packs do not like being pushed around and together with the back row of Alex Powell, Sam Smith and Whyte gained the ascendancy . Difficult to pick any of these out for special mention but Rhys Davies had a good, solid all round match . The visitors, realising there was a tough afternoon in front of them replied when the opportunity arose, with a penalty, after further infringements by the home forwards. Two players, one from each side, were sin binned, although in the case of Lloyd Davies surely mistaken identity! (Will Bell says thank you). The visitors then took the opportunity the reduce the deficit with another well struck penalty, as you could sense at this time Loughborough were a little fearful of the game slipping away from them.
With half time rapidly approaching, a welcome score for the Greens, when after more good work from the pack Rhys Davies was last man over the try line, again converted by Druce and a welcome turn round score of 14-6. Home supporters feeling confident that with the wind now behind them, the Greens would quickly gain total supremacy. Not so.
Early in the second half two more sin bins from a scrap between captain Jimmy Bullough and an opponent. The visitors, who had now started to show more power in their pack fired back, resulting in two tries and a conversion and Wharfedale were suddenly on the back foot and trailing by four points. Replacements James Huck, Jack Kitching, Max Bell and Owen Smith were utilised and mainly proved up to the task, whilst the backs Robbie Davidson, Davies, Will Davidson and Ralph Wellock, with of course full back Druce manfully attempted to keep the attacks going but were not finding it easy. Matt Freeman’s power was now starting to be missed. The half back pairing of Will Bell and Bullough were thrustful and direct whenever possible, but the Loughborough defence was proving difficult to break down. Whilst all the backs had decent games. they found it hard to find those elusive gaps. There were no star players on show today, but a team playing for each other.
In games such as this you need a little bit of luck and, with minutes remaining Lloyd Davies came up with the goods. Making a break, he attempted a kick ahead and follow up catch, which at the time looked a little risky but fortune favours the brave: the ball thankfully bounced the way we had trained it, and he sprinted through, collected it and scored under the posts. Druce converted and the whistle blew at 24-18 to the gallant Greens.
This was a very good game and despite the yellow cards, played with good spirit. Competitive, mainly open Rugby, it was a pleasure to watch. Once again the Foresters showed grit and determination, something over the years we now take for granted. The Students, after the First team result, have to resit the exam but deserve full credit.