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

Wharfedale Foresters 30 Billingham Lions 17

THE INDEFATIGABLE FORESTERS!

After what must have been one of the most disjointed seasons any team could possibly be faced with, the Foresters arrived at

Malton and Norton for the final of the League Cup and the very last game of the season. No side ever deserved it more and fitting that they should have reached this final to show they have not been put off course, by what must have been one of the strangest seasons on record. Along with many others I admire their fortitude , attitude and acceptance of matters beyond their control and whilst this praise is perhaps getting a little repetitive, let`s just say that Wharfedale is justifiably proud of the way you have conducted yourselves.

All Cup Finals are unpredictable, as the two teams here knew only too well and could Wharfedale with a genuine second team overcome a doughty Billingham XV.

To be perfectly honest today was not quite the Foresters we have come to know and against the description used in their semi final victory of scintillating rugby played, this was more a case of toughening it out. Which they did. In the first half the Foresters pack consisting of front row Jimmy Meehan, Sid Holden and Adam Subbs , locks Zeb Hayes and Elliot Stockton and back row Ben Blackwell, Ollie Bullock and Max Mountain realised they were up against a similar formidable pack provided by Billingham and they truly had to dig in ,which they did and by the end of the game were possibly just on top. They are and have been an extremely solid unit.

In the early part of the game it was important that the defensive qualities of Wharfedale came into play. Non more so than the irrepressible Blackwell, although all the pack had to be on their toes with good tackling and cover defence. The first score was a penalty awarded to the Foresters , well converted by Ryan Hodgson who replaced the regular Foresters full back and did extremely well in his absence. The next ten minutes or so consisted of a series of mistakes by both sides but a well worked move along the line with several players involved, gave winger Joe Gill the chance to go over for the first try of the match, an excellent conversion by Hodgson and the lead extended to 10-0.

This period was nearly certainly the spell that Wharfedale were at their best and the consistent Tom Darwin , again after good exchange movement by forwards and backs , scored an impressive try to give a well deserved lead at 15-0. Just before halftime, Billingham who were beginning to look much sharper after the introduction of replacements fought back with a try and conversion and a turn round with the scoreboard showing 15-7 to the Foresters. It would only be fair to say that the game was evenly matched with Wharfedale possibly the better team in this first forty minutes. Just before half time Elliot Stockton who again was giving a productive performance was yellow carded.

Into the second phase and Wharfedale started off brilliantly , firstly with a penalty converted by Hodgson and then a further seven points claimed by the same player after following up scrambled defence from Billingham which he capitalised on and added the conversion to give a seemingly comfortable lead of 25-7.. The Foresters were looking good but sport, when everything seems to be running smoothly, has a way of making you look silly sometimes and for no apparent reason Wharfedale seem to go off the boil for a twenty minute period or so and of course Billingham came back strongly into the game. Make no mistake Billingham were a formidable opposition. It`s very easy to be critical but the referee did seem to make several strange decisions, although that is easily said from the touch line !

The half back pairing of Max Bell and Omar Kaup Samuels had provided their usual efficiency in the first half and Bell could be credited with several ground gaining kicks to touch throughout the game, whilst Kaup-Samuels had a good first half but not quite as ebullient in the second phase and may have been carrying a slight injury. In the threequarters Josh Prell gave his usual 100% and his defensive work again impeccable, whilst Johny Moore was everywhere and if listening to the “ aficionados “ around me was the man of the match !

Taking it back to where Billingham had now gained some supremacy and they quite quickly and deservedly scored in the first instance a try, converted followed by a penalty and the score line 25-17. It has to be said again that Billingham did indeed provide stern opposition in a hard fought match.

Replacements were now being introduced by both sides and this did appear to give Wharfedale a much needed boost. Again all the Wharfedale replacements performed soundly and one, Will Beecroft after shambolic defence by Billingham pounced for a try and a final score of 30-17. As stated earlier this was probably not the finest performance by the Foresters this season but possibly best summed up by Simon Verbickas, Director of Rugby, after the game “ The Foresters have provided quality rugby all season and richly deserved to come away with this victory “

Let us end the season gone by thanking all “behind the scenes” individuals for the hard work and attention to detail they have put into the Foresters and all teams involved at Wharfedale. They do a terrific job and Wharfedale benefits tremendously from their involvement. It was good to see many of the Wharfedale faithful travelling to Malton to witness the Foresters latest victory with every possibility that next season will bring more of the same. The journey home seemed quite enjoyable !!

Fred Bullough.

Team :-  Jimmy Meehan, Sid Holden, Adam Stubbs, Zeb Hayes, Elliot Stockton, Ben Blackwell, Ollie Bullock, Max Mountain, Omar Kaup-Samuels, Max Bell, Josh Prell, Johny Moore, Tom Darwin, Joe Gill, Ryan Hodgson.

Replacements :- Tom Whitehead, Will Beecroft, Luke Craven, Ben Speight, Finn Walker, Spencer Bennett, Dan Wills.

Match report courtesey of Fred Bullough – and thank you!

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