The second stage of the new Northern Pilot League was against Blaydon and from the word go home supporters were concerned that some of the errors encountered last week had been eradicated. It was fair to say that in the main many had.
This was a tough game in tough conditions against very tough opposition. If there was any slight criticism it was that, perhaps, the Foresters attempted to play too much rugby in the bad conditions in the middle of the field. There were two excellent defences and, without stressing the point too much, the conditions were bound to result in handling mistakes, so on the day this was a fair result. Given faster playing conditions it is possible the result could have been somewhat different.
From the word go Blaydon took the game to the home side and forced the Greens to make a mistake on their 22 which gave the visitors the opportunity to score a try. It was not converted but the signs were already there that this was going to be a difficult game for either side to dominate.
As we have come to expect, the home side counter attacked allowing Tom Whyte, thankfully returning to the fray, to go over for one of his typical scores. 5-5. The game swung one way then the other. Just before half time the home side conceded another penalty, which Blaydon converted and the whistle blew at 8-5 to the visitors. Blaydon were also kicking well out of hand.
The pack consisting of Joe Altham, Jake Parkinson and James Huck in the front row played consistently well throughout. The first two in particular had good all round games and all three never gave an inch. Second row, Tom Baines and Rhys Davies, both giving good support in the line outs and the back row of Jack Kitching, Matt Hall and Whyte tackled their hearts out when the Greens were defending and attempted to attack when the opportunity arose. Throughout the game, the Greens sustained several injuries but fortunately had a good bench, which was crucial.
Mid way through the second half the Foresters obtained a penalty, which was slotted over by Rhodes. 8-8.
The slogging contest went on with replacements George Altham, Nathan Myers, Jake Starkey, Ben Parkinson, Morgan Davies and Jimmy Bullough putting their hearts and souls into the contest but, despite all their efforts, it was to no avail. Bullough, once again, was putting in plenty of vigour and bite to the Greens efforts but it was” banging your head against the wall time”, as the Blaydon defence stood firm and all credit to them for doing so. Will Davidson was unable to take any part in the game due to back spasms.
With just one minute to go, the Foresters obtained a penalty and we hoped for a replication of last week when a similar penalty saved the day. But it was not to be. The ball sailed wide of the posts and perhaps it was justice, as on this day neither side deserved to lose.
The backs struggled throughout to obtain fluency but that was impossible in the very poor conditions as mistakes were bound to creep in, but overall with a great deal of their time spent defending, they performed well. Full back Robbie Davidson, for some reason not awarded kicking duties today, despite his heroics last week, made several telling bursts, as in particular did Simon Crabtree in the centre, well assisted by his co-centre Andy Rhodes. Wingers Ralph Wellock and Josh Prell attempted to show their pace and power, but it was difficult to lift their feet out of the gluey surface.
The half back partnership of Max Bell and Harry Bullough had similar problems confronting them although we hasten to add that as with all the backs, they tried manfully to move things forward.
Only two matches gone and this league is showing signs already of being a cracker. The Wharfedale hierarchy have strived to find good, competitive matches for the Foresters for years and this looks as if their wishes could be met. Blaydon have played two and drawn two and will not be an easy team to put away! Next week the Foresters will play Tynedale at the Avenue and they were the other side that Blaydon drew with last week. We hope that there will be a decent playing surface, which as we all know, suits the Foresters.
Team;- Robbie Davidson, Ralph Wellock, Simon Crabtree, Andy Rhodes, Josh Prell, Harry Bullough, Max Bell, Joe Altham, Jake Parkinson, James Huck, Tom Baines, Rhys Davies, Jack Kitching, Matt Hall, Tom Whyte.
Replacements:- George Altham, Jake Starkey, Nathan Myers, Ben Parkinson, Morgan Davies, Jimmy Bullough.