Wharfedale 57 Preston Grasshoppers 18

Rugby returned to the Avenue and a good crowd were treated to an eleven try festival. At times the home side played some sublime rugby. Sweeping moves that involved a host of players with good running and supporting players ready to move the play forward.

The visitors took an early lead with a Ben Pearson penalty before Wharfedale started to open up. Great play by Sam Gaudie took the ball deep into the visitor`s 22 and a penalty was awarded. A quick tap saw Matt Beesley barge over for an unconverted score. Pearson took Hoppers back into the lead with another penalty before Josh Burridge touched down for Dale’s second again unconverted try.

Dale’s next try was breath taking; a burst from Burridge lead to great interplay between Harry Bullough and Oscar Canny with Bullough going over the whitewash. Tom Davidson added the conversion.

Preston then forced their way back into the game with a good move of their own leading to an unconverted try from Will Clapham.

Dale then again started playing with great ambition and the skill to match, highlighted by a through the legs flip from Bullough and some great footwork from Canny. Dale’s fourth, bonus point try, came after great pressure on the defence forcing a string of penalty awards but Dale used the advantage well. A well-placed grubber kick by Davidson was pounced on by Sam Dickinson who forced his way over the whitewash. The last try of the half showed Wharfedale’s intention to play open, fast, adventurous and crowd-pleasing rugby. It was a thing of beauty.

Hoppers had a line-out in Dale’s 22 but Matti Williams got to the ball first and tapped it back for Matt Speres. Speres fed the ball to Canny who jinked his way up to the 22. 2nd phase ball was then moved down the line – Gaudie to Davidson to Bullough and an inside ball to Josh Prell. Prell took the ball up to half-way and fed Gaudie who took the attack on. Hoppers had the ball momentarily after Gaudie’s chip was collected by a defender. His clearance kick went straight to Matti Williams. Williams barged his way past two defenders before being stopped just short of the line but his offload allowed Dickinson the simplest of jobs to finish the move off. Davidson converting one of the tries. Joe Fawcett nearly added another with a strong run carrying three Hoppers with him but the Assistant Linesman decided that there was a knock-on. 29 – 11 at half time.

Wharfedale resumed their attacking play at the start of the second half. Forwards and backs combined to take play from Dale’s 22 to the visitor’s try line. The move was finished off with James Coulton breaking tackles in Hopper’s 22 and off-loading to Sam Smith. Smith then off-loaded for Bullough to stroll over. Davidson converted. Scott Richardson got one back for Hoppers plus another Pearson conversion.

Canny then ran a defence splitting line down the middle and crossed the whitewash, Davidson converted. Preston did mount a period of pressure on the Wharfedale line and picked up two yellow cards. Reduced to 13 the defence resisted any threat and eventually the ball was cleared down field. Some good territorial kicking by Davidson took the play back into Preston’s half. The visitor’s line-out failed again and Dale were back in possession. A well-timed pass from Tom Mann lead to another great run from Coulton which was finished off by Gaudie. A 79-metre run by Canny, after an interception, completed the try fest. The last two tries were converted by Tom Mann.

It was very good to see a large crowd at the Avenue and they were treated to the Green Machine at its best. The line-out was near perfect, every scrum was won, barely a tackle was missed. A couple of offloads did go into opposition hands but so, so many more helped to create fast moving play that Preston could not contain. There were many outstanding performances and the whole squad contributed to an outstanding display of rugby. Ben Blackwell may not have made the scorecard but his ball carrying was a constant threat and he was often responsible for stopping the visitors gaining any advantage with strong tackling.

Head Coach, Simon Verbickas, said after the game “I think that the anticipation for today’s game has shown what we are really all about. I want the lads to play rugby, I want the lads to make their own decisions and play as a 20-man squad and today we also had 2 travelling reserves who also played a massive part. I think it was a really good team performance. Preston are no mugs and they will get better as the season progresses. To have a really big win for the first game at home, for my first game and for the new players, is massive, and shows that we are building for the future”.

Wharfedale Bullough; Prell (R. Davidson 74), Coulton, Blackwell, Canny; T. Davidson (Mann 73), Gaudie; Beesley (Altham 33), Wright, Dickinson (Beesley 54), Smith (Borrill 56), Hedgley (c), Burridge (Speres 36, Dickinson 62, Speres 73), Fawcett (Burridge 40), Williams

Team Burridge (Ro and John) are back so take a look at these fabulous photos of Saturday’s superb 1st XV #Nat2N match against @RugbyHoppersare available to view and download at  https://www.flickr.com/photos/128183691@N04/albums/72177720301821615

Lower quality images can be found at https://www.facebook.com/media/set?set=oa.800339484493807

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