Wharfedale Foresters travelled to Teesside, that proud heart of steel making in the North East, not knowing what to expect. The two teams had never met before but we did know that Billingham had won all three of their games this season and they play on a 4G plastic pitch so this would be another stern test for the young Band of Brothers that are this years’ Foresters.
The Faithful Foresters Followers were treated to an epic battle. Billingham were built like tanks (what do they feed North East rugby players??) and well drilled with a strong scrum and powerful ball carriers. The Foresters have speed, guile, an outstanding defence and a huge heart.
Once again they proved that the old adage “a good bigun will always beat a good littleun” was coined without knowledge of Wharfedale Rugby.
Wharfedale opened the scoring after 8 minutes. A second superb break by Ralph Wellock created the opportunity for Kristian Sharples to cross the whitewash and an impressive conversion from Rory McNabb made it 7-0 to the deal. Already the match had an established pattern. Billingham’s big pack were putting pressure on the Foresters, but with ball in hand the men in green always looked dangerous.
For most of the first half the Foresters lived off scraps and defended stoutly but eventually Billingham broke through; their big second row taking the ball straight through from a ruck and barging over near the posts. 7-7 and honours even.
Wharfedale continued to soak up pressure, tenacious in the tackle and robust in the ruck they withstood wave after wave of Billingham attacks but eventually the pressure told and Billingham took three points for an infringement at the ruck. Scott Rodgers left the field with an injury to be replaced by Ben Blackwell.
The half finished with a Foresters’ Flourish. Elliott Stockton danced down the touchline like Billy Elliott and displayed beautiful hands to offload to flying winger Eddie Gill resulting in a converted try to the Dale.
Half time Billingham 10-14 Wharfedale
Billingham were quickly back in the game in the second half. Another good defensive series from Wharfedale ended in a 5 metre scrum, although the scrum held firm this time Billingham used the ball well to score in the corner. 15 – 14 to Billingham.
By now the Foresters were beginning to enjoy more possession, with regular raids into Billingham’s territory and a scrum that was getting to terms with the plastic turf. This resulted in a bullocking break from second row Simon Borrill who passed to his engine room partner and Elliott Stockton showed the Billingham backs a clean pair of heels to score under the posts. Rory Macnab added the extras. 21-15 to the Foresters.
It was now time for the Foresters to be on top and the Billingham side were beginning to make mistakes which resulted in an interception try by Eddie Gill who streaked away to the posts and gave Rory a chance to make it four from four conversions. 28-15 to the Foresters.
Just as it looked like Wharfedale were on top and likely to score more points they were handicapped by a series of penalties and two yellow cards in quick succession as a result they played almost all the final quarter with only 14 men.
At this stage Wharfedale showed their strength in depth with replacements coming on; Colgrave, Bromley and Howick gave fresh impetus and drive.
The last score of the game went to Billingham. A 5 metre scrum against the 7 Dale forwards giving their backs ball on the front foot to make it 28-22 to the Foresters.
Dale didn’t panic and they controlled the final five minutes. The forwards producing a lineout catch and drive that ate up 30 metres and put Billingham back in their half.
As the ball was kicked off the pitch to end the game the Foresters faithful reflected on another victory in a tough battle against an experienced opposition with bigger weapons.
This may well be the way this season goes; outgunned , the Foresters are never outfought and have the skills and pace to put the opposition to the sword when given half a chance. The senior Wharfedale coaches and management should be very pleased that their system is producing young players of class and commitment.
Foresters: – 1. George Altham, 2. Jake Starkey, 3. Jack Hirst, 4. Simon Borrill, 5. Elliot Stockton, 6. Sam Smith, 7. Joe Fawcett, 8. Tom Whyte (c), 9. Max Bell, 10. Rory MacNab, 11. Eddie Gill, 12. Sam Mason, 13. Ralph Wellock, 14. Scott Rogers, 15. Kristian Sharples.
Replacements: – 16. Chris Howick, 17. Matt Colgrave, 18. Ben Blackwell, 19. Adam Bromley, 20. Oliver Whyte.