Anyone familiar with these reports will be aware that for the past few weeks, the Foresters have been severely tested due to enforced changes, personnel wise and positional .
In the last eight games they have had to dig deep, in all but one, to come away with the spoils . Credit where it`s due , they have shown the strength of mind to do this, bearing in mind opposition teams, desperate to beat the defending champions, throw everything at them but the mentally tough Greens have repelled all boarders. The Club itself benefits during periods such as this, due to the experience gained by the newcomers introduced, allowing their progress along the path of, for some, aspirations of eventually attaining the Holy Grail , a place in the first team.
Today followed the pattern described above with several of the “old” Foresters unavailable, those in their early twenties but a few years hard graft at the coal face under the belt. Wharfedale never looked in danger of losing this match but never really impressed and at the moment are missing that flair we associate with this team. It was good to see Alastair Allen back and the game will have brought him on a ton; he appears not to have lost any of his accepted competitive style. There was a debut for Stephen Pearson who showed fine bursts of speed on the wing. Marcus Farnworth appeared at full back today, enabling James Druce to play on the wing with the Davidson brothers, Robbie and Will forming the centre partnership. The half back combination was Max Bell at scrum half and Andrew Foulds fly half. These positional changes are understandably not proving easy to adapt to, and in the first half Ilkley had approximately 70% of the play which when considering the Foresters put 50 points passed them at Ilkley earlier in the season illustrates how a well balanced settled team is such a bonus.
Ilkey were first on the score board, after showing good forward possession they scored a converted try. The Greens quickly responded to their audacity with a lovely move along the line, finished off by Druce who failed to convert giving a 7-5 lead to the visitors. This first forty minutes was hard for either side attempting to create dominance but then, for a period, the Greens did put a spurt on. Simon Borrill, having a good game, was yellow carded for an infringement during a spell of heavy Ilkley pressure on the Wharfedale line, but this was quickly followed by a superb burst of speed by Foulds who sprinted some 70 yards through the flat-footed Ilkley defence to score between the posts. Converted by Druce, the Foresters finished the period with a hard fought 12-7 lead.
Wharfedale forwards, a strong eight consisted of George Altham, Jake Parkinson and Jimmy Meehan in the front row. Mention here of Altham’s alacrity throughout being impressive, the second row Simon Borrill and Simon Willett solid and a back row of Allen, Jack Kitching and Tom Whyte a competent trio, as we have come to expect from the Foresters in these positions. The forwards utilising their dominance in this second period sent in Whyte for his weekly push over try, which was not converted. Another very good move along the line and Druce did extremely well to take and hang on to the final pass, which he duly converted making a score of 24-7. Whilst all this was going on, the Greens were guilty of a great deal of very sloppy, uncontrolled play involving very poor passes, needless kicking when keeping the ball in hand could possibly have been more beneficial and resulted in more points. For long periods there was no cohesion or standard developed phases being created and it has to be said this involved primarily the backs. One praiseworthy area though was their defence as all the team had to dig deep for long periods, which they did, if this had not been so we could have been looking at a very surprising , unexpected result.
The replacements, as has become customary, were superb. Tom Walker, James Ardron and Simon Crabtree came on at different times, slotting in quickly to their required roles, the latter making a couple of telling breaks and a special praiseworthy mention for Rhys Davies who plays normally second/back row yet with no hesitation moved to prop to avoid the uncontested scrum nightmare and did his job well. Good man. That blast from the past, Andy Hodgson, came on to play at fly half, with Foulds moving to the wing and we were treated to intelligent use of spaces, fast hands, perfect passes and exactly what you would expect from such a prestigious performer. Hopefully some of these techniques will rub off on others.
As the clock ran down Ilkley scored a good unconverted try from an intercepted pass, then to round it off a well deserved try came for Crabtree after good work by the revitalised Greens, for a final score of 29-12. Not a convincing performance, by any means, yet another five pointer giving the Foresters a 14- points lead at the top of their league. They will have to play better in their next two league matches though, away to resurgent Harrogate, and then Sheffield, always hard to beat on their home ground. The signs are there that big improvements, in some areas, could be just around the corner, as they are needed. The Foresters’ hard won reputation needs protecting.
Team :- Farnworth, Druce, Davidson R, Davidson W, Pearson, Foulds, Bell, Altham, Parkinson, Meehan, Borrill, Willet, Allen, Kitching, Whyte (c), Replacements :- Walker, Ardron, Davies, Hodgson, Crabtree.