Wharfedale played outstanding flowing rugby and were far too strong for struggling Harrogate. A bonus point was wrapped up by half-time and Dale doubled their score with another four tries in the second half.
It was difficult to pick Dale’s outstanding player as this was a real team performance. The eight tries were scored by eight different players with everyone contributing to flowing moves that at times left the following faithful breathless. The skill level, the handling and passing reached new heights and stretched Gate at all times.
The pack had the upper hand for nearly the whole game – only on a couple of occasions did the home side get a nudge on. The movement in the backs was excellent; orchestrated by Star Man, Jack Blakeney-Edwards. Scrum-half, Omari Kaup-Samuels, also had a very good game and is developing into a very good number 9. His distribution was, as usual, consistent and he also threatened from the break down and kept the Gate back row on their toes. Harry Bullough had one of his best games at 15; scoring one try and setting up another, for Rian Hamilton. He was a constant threat from the backfield.
Jon Feeley commented after the game “A really terrific performance and much deserved for the hard work we’ve been putting in during the week. After the Huddersfield win we reviewed the areas we were successful in and were honest about where we needed to improve. This is a young group who have that ambition and drive to continually raise expectations. Our skill levels, pace of play and clinical finishing were decisive and then the strength of our bench was important in maintaining the relentless pressure. Too many standout performances to single players out, but terrific for Beau to get on the scoresheet and perform so well on his full senior debut. He came to my attention during a colts game, his character and mental resilience marked him out as future first team player and it’s great to see that now happening”.
Oliver Cicognini also had a very good afternoon and his break set up the first Dale try for Bullough. Rory Macnab got Gate on the scoreboard with a penalty before Bullough’s deft kick was collected by Hamilton to score. The pack then joined in and a driven line-out led to Josh Burridge crashing over. Blakeney-Edwards added the two points.
Harrogate managed a second penalty from Macnab and Blakeney-Edwards kicked two for Dale. The last try of the 1st half epitomised Dale’s all-team approach with many players involved and Beau Verity touching down for a debut converted try to leave the score 6 – 28 at the interval.
The style of play continued after the resumption. Dale won a line-out on half way and good hands took the ball up to Gate’s 22. Three phases later Kaup-Samuels made a break and Elliot Stockton was on hand to finish the move. Stockton still had work to do and he “cleaned the windows” (quote for Mr. Spencer) of the last defender to make the line for a converted try.
Wharfedale were not perfect in their execution all afternoon and a bit of loose play in their own 22 gave Gate an attacking platform. Tim Heaton benefitted and broke through for a try which Macnab converted.
No let up from the visitors who were soon camped in Gate’s 22. Again, positive play from a line-out led to a Ryan Carlson try superbly converted from the touchline by Blakeney-Edwards. Ben Blackwell then added Dale’s 7th try after more good work by a host of players. Beau Verity took over the kicking duties and equalled Blakeney-Edwards effort from the touchline. The try scoring fest was finished by Oliver Cicognini who showed dancing feet to get through a crowded defence to score. A second Verity conversion took Dale’s score to 56 points.
Credit to Harrogate for not letting their heads drop completely and coming back to score the last try of the match with Thomas Steene touching down for their second try.
Nearly all of the players have had a mention but not forgetting Madison Hunting, Rhys Green, Jack Pinder and Sam Dickinson who all gave 100%. The lads off the bench were not bad either!
Many of the faithful were scratching their heads as to the last time Dale scored as many points or got past 50. Stato has revealed it was back on 17th September 2016 when Dale beat Hinckley 53-33 at the Avenue. Another note from Stato, after very deep searches of the records, also states that Rian Hamilton has now equalled the number of tries scored by an individual in league games for a season.
Wharfedale Bullough, Hamilton, Blackwell, Verity, Cicognini, Blakeney-Edwards (Bullock 65), Kaup-Samuels, J. Altham (Beesley 57), Hunting (Stockdale 70), Dickinson, Stockton (Hedgley 57), Green, Carlson, Pinder (Thompson 64), Burridge (c).
Photos of the 1st XV #Nat2N match against @Harrogate_Rugby are available to view and download at https://www.flickr.com/photos/128183691@N04/albums/72177720298337493
Lower quality images can be found at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.293875316270617