Saturday 16 December - Wharfedale v Rotherham (A) KO 2.00pm........

Wharfedale Foresters 50 Otley Saracens 3

It really is worth getting to the Avenue when the Foresters are, as at the moment, in their present form. If you cast your minds back, this fixture was postponed on the 4th of September due to an Otley player being quite badly injured and at the time the Foresters were a developing side and the fixture today was the perfect test to see how far their game had progressed in the ensuing two months, especially as some of their prominent players were now being gradually introduced to the Senior side. Otley came with a strong side, utilising a scattering of players who are in their first team squad.

The Greens’ progress has been quietly tremendous and whilst Otley attempted to play a constraining game, using a much heavier pack, the Wharfedale backs are like greyhounds on the leash, once free they are devilishly difficult to restrain and so it proved on this very pleasant sunny November afternoon before a decent sized crowd who relish watching this team perform and go home enthused by their team’s performance. In the early stages of the first half it was a question of each side feeling each other out but once the Foresters realised their pack was every bit as good, if not better, than the opposition’s that they started to play with more freedom and “joie de vivre “ The Foresters are also very fit.

The first points came after a powerful Wharfedale scrum, the ball quickly moved along the line and Bradley Viner there to finish off the move. It was not converted. The next try came from the running power of Josh Prell (reminiscent of Les Ingham) , shrugging of three tackles to crash over, converted by Marcus Farnworth. 12-0 to the Greens. Farnworth had his usual reliable game at full back and converted five of the tries scored. There was a surfeit of penalties given away by the Foresters , which perhaps could be looked at, and from one of these Otley scored their only points of the game, making a score of 12-3, this half way through the first half. The rest of the first forty minutes had the Greens on the defensive for much of the time but this they carried out with great determination and all the time sapping the Otley packs energy. The front row of Jimmy Meehan, Jack Wells and Harley Debney-Succoia resolute, locks Jack Burton and Ben Leacock strong and decisive both in the scrums and at line outs. The back row of skipper Max Mountain, Joe Fawcett and Charles Glover tireless in their work and support to the backs, as and when required. Half time at 12-3 with the promise of better to come. Could Wharfedale maintain their style of play up the hill?

There were signs now appearing that Otley were feeling the pressure of the Greens tireless foraging and soon enough after concentrated fast open play Jimmy Meehan crashed over with a terrific conversion from Farnworth. Yet more pressure enabled Joe Fawcett , who had a great game, to show his prowess by scoring a converted try and a score line of 26. This soon to became 33-3 following a brilliant try by Tom Mann, again converted. The Greens were now running rampant and Otley, whilst valiantly attempting to hold the Foresters at bay were finding it increasingly difficult, the more so as the game progressed. The energy levels were , at this stage, very much with the home side. Obviously a great deal of the damage was being created by the Greens backs, all of them involved at some stage or other. Max Bell at scrum half and Tom Mann, fly half provided throughout a steady supply of decent ball to centres Josh Prell and Jonny Moore, who used this intelligently, utilising their wingers Viner and Hewetson, Full back Farnworth joined in whenever the opportunity arose.

As always, with this team, the replacements were invaluable and Jack Hirst, Sam Smith, Eliot Stockton and Thomas Darwin more than played their part in this victory. Stockton played with tremendous fervour and Darwin had an excellent spell. The other tries scored came from more good sustained passing movements finished off by Viner (2) and his fellow winger Hewitson, Farnworth converting the latter. The final score of 50-3 truly reflected a convincing performance by this effervescent team. Great emphasis should be placed on the word team as that is what they are, playing for each other and utilising individual skills in a collective manner. On their day very inspiring and whilst you are probably fed up of hearing this, they are well worth watching. One thing that is baffling is that where the 1st team seem to lose strength and power as the game goes on, the Foresters come to life . Strange game Rugby !!

Let us please not forget the men behind this squad, as that is where it all starts. Team Manager Rob Burnett, coaches Matt Shuttleworth and Andy Peel have put a great deal of time and effort into this squad and it shows, so praise to them and long may the Foresters go on providing us with that sense of “game enjoyment “ which comes from supporting this side.

Fred Bullough.

PS. The after Match “speeches” and presentations were a riot and Wharfedale through and through – thank you!!

Foresters Squad

1 Jimmy Meehan, 2 Jack Hirst, 3 Jack Wells, 4 Harley Debney-Succoia, 5 Jack Burton, 6 Ben Leacock, 7 Elliot Stockton, 8 Sam Smith, 9 Charles Glover, 10 Joe Fawcett, 11 Max Mountain, 12 Max Bell, 13 Tom Mann, 14 Bradley Viner, 15 Jonny Moore, 16 Ben Blackwell, 17 Thomas Darwin, 18 Fred Hewetson, 19 Josh Prell, 20 Marcus Farnworth.

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