Wharfedale had during the course of this season played their games with several of their regular squad on first team duty, as was the case for this match and it says a great deal regarding their fortitude and depth in squad numbers to maintain the level of rugby they have.
The Foresters are leading the Yorkshire Merit League- Premiership Conference A table and lie second in the Northern Pilot league, with a game in hand. That is no mean achievement when you consider the many team changes that have had to be made and a sure sign of the loyalty to the club by so many players. Wharfedale are justifiably proud of their second string.
Darlington presented the Greens with stern opposition although it has to be said that possibly the home side didn`t capitalise on their strengths, which consist of speed in the backs and resolute forward play, There were many occasions where the home team kicked, when in possession, where possibly running the ball would have presented more try scoring opportunities as several of the Darlington team where not built for speed and probably would have tired the longer the game went on. However that was not the way it worked out as the visitors defended resolutely, as did Wharfedale whenever subjected to pressure and credit was due to both sides for the manner in which they slugged it out. This was a solid game of rugby between two sides who, on the day, were a great deal more evenly matched than the spectators had expected and all in all gave value for money to the unusually meagre crowd who attended.. The Greens did deserve to win but were made to work very hard for their victory.
Darlington, playing towards the river, started impressively and were marginally on top in the first ten minutes, resulting in a try and conversion after a good, strong forward drive and it took a while before the Greens found any serious structured play, which eventually did, giving Rhys Davies, who had a strong game throughout, the chance to finish off another good forward drive with a score in the corner. It was beautifully converted by Andy Rhodes which made the scores level at 7-7. The Wharfedale forwards again performed with great credit and determination against a far heavier pack. Once again the front row of George Altham, Jake Parkinson and Tom Jackson gave the opposition’s front row no chance of capitalising on their weight superiority. Parkinson, enhancing his burgeoning reputation, once again a little dynamo with industrious application and both props played very well . The second row of Davies and Simon Borrill were extremely solid and excellent in their line out duties and to add extra gloss to the pack’s performance, a back row of Joe Metcalfe , playing very well on his return for his first full game, Sam Smith and Chris Swainson complementing the overall contribution of the Wharfedale eight. With neither set of forwards being able to totally dominate, the play went backwards and forwards and possibly both teams were equally glad to finish off the first half at 7-7. By this time the Wharfedale pack was gaining in strength and home supporters imagined that playing down-hill in the second half would be a big advantage to the home team and points would accumulate.
At this stage the Greens backs had not been able to utilise their normal free flowing style of play, despite all attempts by Jimmy Bullough at scrum half and Rhodes at number 10, Bullough was sniping and forever urging his forwards to better things and Rhodes attempted to create openings for the centres Mark Simpson and Will Lawn . The latter made a welcome return to the side after injury and he had a most satisfactory game. The centres never really were given the opportunity to free wingers Ralph Wellock and Oliver Whyte, who were only given the chance to attack in brief periods of the game, and were halted by good tackling from the opposition . During this period more clinical passing of the ball and less attempted positional kicking could have paid dividends but it`s far easier from the touchline!
Wharfedale’s pressure began to tell and after infringements by the visitors Rhodes banged over two penalties and thus stretched the lead to 13-7.
Ben Parkinson was solid at full back and was another Foresters player attempting to break clear whenever he could but the Darlington defence stood firm. Then the great advantage of the Wharfedale replacement bench. One of these was Sam Gaudie, another returning from a long term injury, who provided a delightful burst of speed and skill to waltz his way through for a fine individual try making the score 18-7. It was nice to see him back. Other replacements used were Jimmy Meehan, Nick Atkinson and, yet another coming back from a long term injury, Will Davidson. All of the replacements played their part by keeping the game tight which at this stage of the match was the sensible thing to do. It had not been a classic game but hard fought by both sides with good and determined defence making it extremely difficult for either side to monopolise, as the sparse total of three tries scored in total reflected the fair but combative nature of the game. Possibly more a game for the connoisseur to appreciate and praise is due to both sides for giving their all for the eighty minutes. The coaches present on the day, John Metcalfe and Robbie Burnett expressed their total satisfaction with the overall performance of the squad and in particular their attitude. Well done the Greens.
Wharfedale: – George Altham ,Jake Parkinson, Tom Jackson, Rhys Davies , Simon Borrill, Joe Metcalfe, Sam Smith, Chris Swainson, Jimmy Bullough (c) , Andy Rhodes, Ralph Wellock, Mark Simpson, Will Lawn, Oliver Whyte, Ben Parkinson.
Replacements :- Jimmy Meehan, Nick Atkinson, Sam Gaudie, Will Davidson.
Replacement not used :- Robbie Burnett.