Saturday 27 April - Wharfedale v Lymm (H) KO 3.00pm ----   Wednesday 24 April - Wharfedale 3rd XV v Ilkley 2nd XV (A) KO 6.30pm -------

Preston Grasshoppers 27 Wharfedale 12

This was not an attacking festival of rugby that a big crowd had hoped for. It did not match the superb spectacle of Dale’s 57 – 18 win way back at the start of the season at the Avenue. Head coach, Simon Vebickas, said after the game in September “Preston are no mugs and they will get better as the season progresses”.

Dale took to the field with 9 changes to the starting line-up from September but full of the youngsters who had played so brilliantly in the past few weeks. Sadly, this was not to be their finest hour. They were desperate to continue the flowing, fast coast-to-coast rugby that swept away Sheffield and Chester but the dots never joined up. Preston had improved, and were competitive, and did put one or two good periods of play together, and a mighty cheer went up from their players at the final whistle.

The opening exchanges seemed to be going smoothly for Dale and a couple of penalties saw the visitors with an attacking line-out in Hopper’s 22. Three phases after the successful line-out Dale gave away a penalty and Preston escaped. Now the home side had the penalties and marched downfield to an excellent attacking position with a line-out 8 metres from Dale’s line. They won the line-out and set for a drive but then sent the ball to hooker, Harry Thompson, standing at 1st receiver, who crashed over for an unconverted try.

A rare passage of good handling by Hoppers led to their second try with Jake Maher touching down. William Hunt added the 2 points to take the score to 12 – 0. The next few minutes probably showed that this was not going to be Wharfedale’s day. Dale now had the penalties and an attacking line-out 5-metres out. A good line-out was spoilt by an accidental off-side and again Preston got out of their 22. This was followed by a Ryan Carlson charge down outside Preston’s 22 :he re-gathered the ball and set off to the line – BUT, the referee had blown his whistle for a knock on. He quickly realised his mistake and gave Dale the put-in at the scrum.

Dale did gain some advantage when Preston’s Harry Swarbrick was Yellow Carded for a dangerous high tackle. They soon used the man advantage and after a few phases, a good run from Cicognini, the ball was spread left for Oscar Canny to cross the whitewash. No conversion but Dale had troubled the scorers. The first half finished with neither side being able to play fluent rugby and a series of knock-ons. Hoppers extended the lead just before the half-time whistle with a penalty from Hunt after Cicognini was Yellow Carded for a high tackle.

Preston Grasshopper’s third try came from sustained pressure built up by the whole team. They ran a penalty from inside their own half and went through 8 good phases before Man of the Match, Will Riley, scored an unconverted try. Could Dale bounce back? They won the restart and Ryan Carlson put Preston on the back foot. Three phases later a pass was sent harmlessly into touch. A few more penalties to Preston ended with some good handling and Tom Lee scoring their 4th try which Hunt converted.

Wharfedale now set up camp in Hopper’s 22. 7 penalties later (including what looked like a deliberate knock on) Sam Gaudie pooped over to score and Tom Davidson added the conversion. The penalties included a couple of scrum penalties, so hats off to the Green Machine! Most folks were hoping that the match would end as the rugby was not inspiring and the apres match activities could get started. Thankfully the ref blew for the end of a season of mixed blessing and achievements for Dale. The Travelling Faithfull had been cheered up by news that was filtering through from the Avenue. The Foresters producing a great display to win their semi-final against Tynedale.

All who follow t’Dale can look forward to one more game next Saturday when the Foresters play in the final. They will be playing Billingham 2nds who beat Driffield 2s 38 – 26. The match will be played at Malton and Norton RUFC (YO17 &EY) on 29th April with a 2:30 pm KO.

Wharfedale Hodgson; Gaudie (Prell 47), Walters (Davidson 56), Cicognini, Canny; Verity, Macnab (Macnab 66); Beesley, Hirst (Meehan 62), Dickinson, Borrill, Hedgley (Smith Jnr 78), Smith Jnr (Baldwin 40), Green, Carlson Replacement not used Speres.

Fabulous TeamBurridge photos of Saturday’s final  1st XV #Nat2N leugue match against @RugbyHoppersare available to view and download at   https://www.flickr.com/photos/128183691@N04/albums/72177720307715967 

Lower quality images can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/489145011182617

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