Don`t let the score mislead you, this was a very hard competitive game and the Foresters did extremely well to come away with such a commanding points difference. With all the other rugby taking place, the rather sparse crowd could have been expected and a special mention must be made of the three hardy and committed Wharfedale supporters who travelled up the A1 to give their encouragement to the lads in green. Well done to them. The team were appreciative.
The game was played on the Blaydon first team pitch, which is quite an expansive area and with the strong breeze against them the visitors were prepared to be spending much of the first half defending and on the back foot, but this proved to be otherwise as the first forty minutes developed into a midfield battle. The Foresters are just bloody minded when it comes to competitive matches such as this was and really give everything they can to claim any victory. It is impossible to fully describe the way they apply themselves, week in and week out, to the task put in front of them and with this win put themselves at the top of the Northern Pilot league to join that position in the Yorkshire Merit table. There are only 2 games remaining in the Pilot League, so will do well to hold on to their position there as Tynedale, their closest challengers, have a game in hand. Certainly they do not win every single week but their percentage win to loss ratio over the past several years is outstanding, bearing comparison with any club squad anywhere.
In the earlier stages of this match, after strong defensive work by the forwards, the ball traveled out to Josh Prell on the wing who, in his usual aggressive style, broke away. He was supported by fellow attackers. The ball was recycled through a few phases to the opposite wing where Ralph Wellock combined with Will Lawn to catapult the centre over the line. A very good conversion from wide out by the reliable Andrew Rhodes and the visitors took a lead of 7-0. The backs consisted of the afore-mentioned wing men Prell and Wellock, supported by centres Lawn and Mark Simpson and Ben Parkinson, the ever steady and reliable full back. The half back partnership of Rhodes and scrum half and skipper Jimmy Bullough carried out their work load to a most satisfactory degree. It has been a long time since the scrum half played a full eighty minutes!
Then came another of those occasions showing the combative nature and spirit of defiance the Foresters possess. Firstly a yellow card for Simpson caused by the trip he performed on ex-Wharfedale player Andrew Baggett and a succession of cheap penalties resulted in the visitors being subjected to a massive defence of their line, which they did valiantly and, without labouring the point too much, proved conclusively the spirit and togetherness of the squad. The defence was terrific and, as usual, when you look at the formation of the pack, it should come as no surprise. The front three consisted of Matt Close, Jake Parkinson and Tom Jackson. No doubt you have heard enough superlatives over previous weeks on the Foresters front row. Simon Borrill was again solid and defiant in the second row with this week Sam Smith willingly playing in his un-favoured position as the other lock. The back row, who all played tremendously well, consisted of the up and coming Joe Metcalfe and hardy competitors Tom Whyte and Chris Swainson. The forwards, yet again, were the platform for the end result and no praise can be too high for their determination and ability.
Back to the game and the welcome return of “bad boy” Simpson resulted in the next try for the Greens, when after good rucking, Prell went on one of his charging energetic forays. He linked with Bullough and the play was forced deep into the Blaydon half. Poor support unfortunately lost the ball but the home side allowed a clearing kick to be charged down and Smith, showing great awareness, was the quickest to react and touched down for a try. Rhodes, very unfortunately, hit the post with his conversion attempt. Simpson, determined to be in the news, then went on to score another try after good consistent continuity from the Greens. The Foresters were playing strong attacking rugby at this stage and richly deserved the next and bonus point try when Rhodes, after a deft chip through, followed up and scored the fourth try which he then went on to convert. The half time whistle came, with the visitors, possibly against the odds, showing a lead of 24-0.
Then, in the early stages of the second half, Blaydon, who had not played badly, began a comeback, resulting in several penalties against the visitors. The home team, from an attacking line-out, scored a converted try. Some of the penalties conceded were possibly unnecessary but that’s rugby. Now full of fire Blaydon went in again for another try and after this period of nip and tuck rugby it was time for the Greens to regroup to stem the tide. This they surely did and following good work by Metcalfe and Wellock in the tackle, allowed the latter to strip the ball and sprint clear from some 35 metres. Rory McNab, who had now taken over kicking duties, missed the conversion from very wide out. McNab is one of the usual strong replacements carried by the Foresters; the others being Jimmy Meehan, Nick Atkinson and Oliver Whyte. The Greens are extremely fortunate to have the quality of replacements that they are able to provide.
A period of parity followed, only to be disturbed by the rumbustious Prell, when he was allowed sufficient room to break down the right, chip ahead and beat Blaydon’s covering defence to score a fine individual try. The conversion was missed but a final score of 34-12.
This was another fine performance by the Foresters, and was appreciated by coaches John Metcalfe and Robbie Burnett. The first team coach Hedley Verity, who was also present, welcomed and praised the squad’s application in testing conditions. Very rarely do you get short changed by this group.
Foresters: – Matt Close, Jake Parkinson, Tom Jackson, Simon Borrill, Sam Smith, Joe Metcalfe, Tom Whyte, Chris Swainson, Jimmy Bullough ©, Andy Rhodes, Josh Prell, Mark Simpson, Will Lawn, Ralph Wellock, Ben Parkinson.
Replacements:- Jimmy Meehan, Nick Atkinson, Oliver Whyte, Rory McNab.