Wharfedale Foresters hosted Sheffield 2nd XV at the Avenue on a bright, breezy day with a 100% record to live up to and with a starting XV sporting a number of changes.
Sheffield are a strong side with a big pack. They have had some good results this year so the Dalesmen were expecting a tough test. The first quarter of the game was a disjointed affair with the Sheffield scrum dominating the set piece and a series of handling errors from both sides making it a very stop-start affair. Ten scrums and half a dozen lineouts in those twenty minutes meant that Wharfedale couldn’t piece together their attack. However the highlight of the early stages was a scintillating break from Ralph Wellock that hinted at things to come.
Indeed it was the young Dales centre that opened the scoring following a dropped ball in the Sheffield backline. This was to be another expensive day for Welly as he went on to score his third hattrick of the season and will have been funding jugs at the bar yet again. The try was converted by Max Bell. 7-0 to the Foresters.
There was little time for Sheffield to re-group before Ben “Ginger Ninja” burst through a gap in the Sheffield centre to romp under the posts for a converted try. 14-0 to the Foresters.
As the first half progressed the forwards in green slowly started to get the measure of the Sheffield scrum and produce quick ball for their dangerous backs and this led to the final score of the half with forwards and backs combining to release the supporting Will Lawn to score in the corner. Half time 19-0 to the Foresters.
The Foresters were quick to build on their confidence early in the second half with Ralph Wellock burning both the Sheffield wing and full back to score wide. 24-0 to Wharfedale.
At last Sheffield managed to put together some possession and only a brilliant one on one tackle from full back Kristian Sharples on a rampaging Sheffield forward prevented a score.
By now the Forester scrum had worn down Sheffield and had begun to dominate this area of the game. With possession and territory in their favour the Foresters always looked to run the ball and use their pacey three quarters. A break down the right by Josh Prell and a nicely timed inside pass gave Ryan Hodgson, the replacement full-back, a run to the line and a try converted by replacement flyhalf Rory Macnab. 31-0 to Wharfedale.
Sheffield scored their first try from a fumbled catch at the resulting kick off but it only stemmed the tide for a moment as Ralph Wellock completed his hat-trick from excellent scrum ball. 36-5.
Not content with three tries Ralph went over again following outstanding back play from Josh Prell and Ryan Hodgson, converted by Rory Macnab. 43-5 to Wharfedale.
In the final ten minutes the Foresters turned the screw with tries from Joe Metcalfe, converted by Macnab, and another from Ben Parkinson which took their score to over the half century yet again. A converted consolation try for Sheffield meant the final score was 55-12 to the Foresters.
Having watched, played and coached many, many games of rugby I have to say this is a special group of players; young, hard-working, passionate and committed. They are a joy to be around. Whatever happens this season they have shown they are all worthy of the coveted green jersey.