The danger here had been the possibility that Wharfedale would treat this game not over seriously, considering their rather heavy defeat of the same opposition 54-0 only last Saturday at Huddersfield. They soon had to realise that this was a much stronger outfit than the one they encountered seven days before and quite obviously the visitors had been able to strengthen their squad to some extent.
This became very clear in the first twenty minutes when Huddersfield were sharper, quicker to the ball and to be perfectly blunt, looked to be the team that wanted it the more. In this period the Greens gave what could only be described as a mixed performance and for some parts were outgunned and outclassed. The visitors opened the scoring with a penalty and following weak defence from the home side scored a very good converted try. 10-0 to Huddersfield , a team who were more confident and composed.
The next ten minutes or so provided no clearer indication that the Greens had collected their minds to the fact that this was not going to be easy and there was every chance that it could be one of those days. Poor technique and disjointed sloppy play gave away a penalty, which was duly converted. 13-0, justifiably to the visitors. They were playing well and it was obvious that Wharfedale had to quickly pull themselves together and show significant improvement. The front row of Matt Close, Jake Parkinson and George Altham were holding their own against a far weightier three and Jim Mason and Sam Smith provided the strength required in the second row. It was good to see Mason returning to full fitness. The back row of captain Matt Hall, playing his last game before moving away, Oliver Snowden and Jack Kitching also did their jobs in a testing afternoon for the Greens pack. They did everything asked of them against a decent eight provided by the opposition. Kitching is showing progress in every game played. Hall will be missed.
Then the fight back began. Sam Mason and Andy Rhodes , half backs, were desperately attempting to get the backs moving and except for two or three forward passes would have achieved this. The Foresters must eradicate these mistakes and then showing pace and purpose a very good move gave Ralph Wellock the opportunity to fly in close to the corner and make the score 5-13. Wharfedale were now, thankfully, showing signs of good team play and pressure on the visitors defence resulted in a penalty which was converted by Rhodes and the half time score looked much better at 8-13. Could this improvement be maintained?
By this stage centres Mark Simpson and Simon Crabtree were coming more into the game giving wingers Wellock and Oliver Whyte opportunities to show their worth. Full back Ben Parkinson tried valiantly to join into attacks whenever possible. Now saw the much awaited return of Rob Baldwin, after his nasty injury and besides his playing contribution it was good to see him encouraging and advising some of the younger players during these forty minutes. Also from the bench, Simon Borrill and Tom Jackson gave good solid performances. The Greens were now looking and playing like the team we know and respect. Jim Mason made a strong burst, and was well supported by Ben Parkinson who burst through to score. Rhodes converted. In front for the first time at 15-13 and a period followed where the Foresters showed deft handling and good lines of attack.
Next came probably the try of the match where after good passing moves and back up Wellock went over for another try which was converted by Rhodes rsulting in a score line of 22-13. This was quickly followed by another try from Sam Smith, who richly deserved this score. 27-13. Huddersfield were now under the cosh to a certain extent but quickly showed their fighting prowess when after sustained forward pressure they deservedly put points on the board with a converted try and rekindled their enthusiasm at 27-20. There was everything to play for but the Greens had not pulled themselves back to be brought down now and a very rarely seen drive of some 22 metres with the scorer, who else but Jake Parkinson under the posts. It was duly converted making the final score 34-20.
As the news was filtering through from Sheffield it did at least raise spirits a little for the crowd but the Foresters players will have to lift their game, in most parts, to be considered for first team duty and coaches David Whitfield and Robbie Burnett who were on duty today will undoubtedly be making that clear to all concerned. There is potential there but it needs to be developed.
Alhtough not scintillating, it had been a good competitive game to watch. All credit to Huddersfield for the manner in which they responded to the heavy defeat the previous week and praise to Wharfedale for not fully losing their composure when things were looking messy and frankly sloppy. All turned out well in the end. Well done the coaches.
Team: – Matt Close, Jake Parkinson, George Altham, Jim Mason, Sam Smith, Matt Hall (c) , Oliver Snowden, Jack Kitching, Sam Mason, Andy Rhodes, Oliver Whyte, Mark Simpson, Simon Crabtree, Ralph Wellock, Ben Parkinson.
Replacements :- Tom Jackson, Simon Borrill, Rob Baldwin