After last week’s emphatic win against Doncaster Phoenix it was a shame when, for various reasons, Wharfedale Foresters were deprived of seven players from that squad as they travelled to league leaders Sheffield. In fact, due to the unavailabilities, the Greens were unable to field a front-row, so the scrums were uncontested throughout the match. Despite this, the Foresters produced another tremendous performance full of energy and fight to nick the win at Abbeydale. Whilst they only scored two tries, the side could reflect on a victory at least on a par with last week. Skipper Rhys Davies felt it was the best win of the season and his outstanding individual performance, both in defence and attack, was certainly his best outing of the campaign.
Following the recent inclement weather the game was played on a heavy pitch which limited the attacking options from both sides. Sheffield relied mainly on using their big forwards to carry the ball, attacking close to either side of the breakdown. The Wharfedale pack relentlessly repelled these drives. When Sheffield did move the ball wide the Greens’ backline only rarely allowed Sheffield to make any headway. The opening try resulted from this defensive pressure. Having been unable to make any yards through their forward runners, Sheffield looked to kick downfield. The kick was charged down and Ed Gill followed through to gather the ball and score. Jack Johnson added the conversion.
Sheffield responded soon after and Wharfedale could count themselves unlucky as a Sheffield forward stole the ball from what seemed an offside position. The resultant breakaway was well finished and the conversion levelled the scores. Sheffield took the lead when Wharfedale conceded possession in their own half. For once the Sheffield forwards made good progress and took play close to and then over the Wharfedale line.
The Foresters raised their game and worked down into the attacking twenty-two, where a Sheffield infringement gave Johnson a simple penalty chance. The teams turned round with the score 14-10 to Sheffield.
There was only one score in the second half but this was far from a dull affair. The forward battle in the loose was not for the faint hearted. Time and again, Wharfedale won these exchanges despite having less of the possession. The Sheffield coach singled out Oliver Snowdon as his man of the match. Snowdon did indeed make several successful steals at the tackle but he was ably supported by his fellow forwards. Rhys Davies was in the thick of everything as was his brother Morgan. Simon Borrill was playing his first 80 minutes for a few months. regular full-back Ben Parkinson was having to play on flank due to lack of available forwards. Tom Baines and Elliott Stockton were late call-ups from the third team. Sole substitute Harry Dunn was also forced to play out of position at flanker.
Along with Tom Jackson, all had great games and never took a backward step.
It looked as though Sheffield mIGHT hold on for the win but as the half wore on the Foresters started to see more of the ball. Josh Prell was put into space by Jordan Annett and his break, followed by a penalty took play into Sheffield’s twenty-two. After several phases of possession, Jackson combined with centres Will Lawn and Max Bell to allow Gill to squeeze in for a try in the corner.
Sheffield dominated possession and territory for the remainder of the game but could find no way through the Green wall that confronted them. A final turnover earnt the Greens the chance to run down the clock and then kick the ball out to clinch a hugely impressive victory.