Whilst no report was submitted for last week’s heavy defeat at Sheffield , the manner of the loss was very clearly felt and remembered and, thankfully, normal service resumed for this fixture against Huddersfield with comments from the Management team that everything that could go wrong last week, did exactly that. The squad had a determination to put this recent lapse quickly behind them. The Foresters have over many years been able to withstand the pressures put on them whenever players are called up late for duty with the first team, so no complaints with regards to squad members being elevated to the firsts for the Sedgley Park game, a fact so well described in the Club match programme this last Saturday. The Sheffield match is now history. The Foresters are still leaders, but only just, in the Merit League, from Harrogate.
The visitors this week at The Avenue came from the Huddersfield Club. Their second team lying in fourth place in the Yorkshire Merit League. Unfortunately they arrived with just fourteen men and the game had to be played with uncontested scrums. However, great credit goes to them for turning up and also for the way they stuck to the task so doggedly.
It was terrific to see three players, Adam Howard, Philip Woodhead and Jim Mason, who have been absent through injury, returning to the fray and they all came through the proceedings unscathed. Sam Smith also reappeared after a break. This all meant that there were several team changes, both positional and team wise. The front row consisted of Nick Atkinson, Jake Parkinson and Adam Howard with Simon Borrill and Sam Smith second row and Jack Kitching, Oliver Snowden and Matt Hall (who took over the captain’s duties) were the back three. Andy Rhodes started at fly half with the redoubtable Philip Woodhead at scrum half. Further changes included John Davidson on the wing, with Joe Slater back to his favoured position in the centre alongside Mark Simpson and the other wing berth went to Scott Rogers. The starting team was completed with Ben Parkinson at full back.
Possibly as a result of the many changes in the team, it did take the Foresters a while to fully settle and it was heartening to see both teams attempting to play attacking rugby and it was fair to say that the Greens improved significantly as the game went on. Twenty three minutes had elapsed before the Foresters troubled the scoreboard and this was after good pressure from Huddersfield when the ball was turned over by the Greens and Oliver Snowden broke downfield, eventually being stopped in his tracks but keeping the ball alive the home team strung together some tight phases. Woodhead broke from the ruck, fed Snowden who crossed by the posts and Rhodes converted. Still not gaining absolute control, the Foresters encountered a further ten minutes of stalemate before, after another period of sustained pressure and good handling, Rhodes went in for a try, which he duly converted.
Before the half time period Wharfedale were now starting to play good rugby, moving the ball with pace and purpose and Huddersfield had to defend magnificently to thwart the attacks. Kitching sustained an injury and was replaced by the stalwart Jim Mason. It was good to see him back after thirteen months out through injury and he quickly made his mark with a bullocking burst taking him over the visitor’s line. So half time arrived with the home team leading by 21-0 and praise to Huddersfield for the way they had approached a daunting task.
Changes were now made for the second half. Mike Bradshaw came on for Howard, George Altham replaced Anderson, Jake Starkey for Snowden and finally Oliver Whyte on for Rhodes . Shortly in the second half Woodhead was replaced by Snowden, who went to the unfamiliar position for him of wing and this allowed young John Davidson to be introduced at scrum half. You can appreciate that so many changes, whilst not doing a great deal for cohesion and progressive team work, did allow several players valuable playing time, which in the long run will be invaluable for the Club in general.
Then for a further twenty or so minutes, despite a great deal of endeavour, the Greens could not increase their advantage until eventually their industry and power was rewarded when Jake Starkey managed to burst through for an unconverted try. This was quickly followed by a Huddersfield try and conversion, which was richly deserved for their general attitude and approach to what was a thankless task. Without their frenzied fight in defence the score could have been even more emphatic. Just prior to the full time whistle, Ben Parkinson went in for a well worked try, which was converted by Davidson and a final score of 33-7.
This could not be described as a classic, by any means, but it did give the opportunity for a good run out for returning players, testing positional changes as far as Wharfedale were concerned and all in all beneficial if only for those reasons. It had been a decent performance only marred by uncontested scrums, which of course the Club hasd no control over.
Wharfedale: – Nick Atkinson, Jake Parkinson, Adam Howard, Simon Borrill, Sam Smith, Matt Hall (c), Oliver Snowden, Jack Kitching, Philip Woodhead, Andy Rhodes, John Davidson, Mark Simpson, Joe Slater, Scott Rogers, Ben Parkinson.
Replacements:- Mike Bradshaw, George Altham, Jake Starkey, Jim Mason, Oliver Whyte.