Wharfedale 39-22 Preston Grasshoppers
A large crowd at the Avenue enjoyed the Autumnal sunshine and an afternoon of end-to-end rugby. Neither side was very good at protecting its own ball and counter attack was the order of the day. Perhaps the difference was that the home side’s backs often found holes in Hoppers defence whereas Hoppers ball carriers were Lamprey and Fitzpatrick who did make ground but not with the same pace as their opposition.
Hoppers took the lead as early as the fourth minute when a Wharfedale line out throw close to their own line did not go to hand. Hoppers quickly transferred the ball across the field allowing Tyler Spence to squeeze in at the corner for an unconverted try.
Hoppers twice lost control of the ball in quick succession giving Wharfedale right winger Hamilton the chance to race down the touchline and level the scores. Blakeney-Edwards who had joined the home side from Kendal in mid-week added the conversion.
Davidson’s restart went straight into touch and Wharfedale took full advantage putting Hamilton away for a second try. Matt Lamprey went close for Hoppers before a close range scrum was fruitful. Although Lamprey was again stopped short, the forwards drove for the line with Teddy Leatherbarrow claiming the touchdown. With both conversions on target, Wharfedale’s lead was 14-12.
Two penalties from Blakeney-Edwards increased his side’s lead although Wharfedale had squandered try scoring opportunities. Hoppers finished the half with a late try after good work from Sale Sharks loanee Rouban Birch (pictured above) who marked his debut with a strong run. Conor Trueman provided support and again Spence crossed in the corner. Davidson’s conversion attempt struck a post but bounced out to leave the score 20-17 at the break.
A penalty to the corner gave Wharfedale the base to pressure Hoppers line with flanker Houghton scoring their third try ten minutes into the second half. Again it was converted. but a yellow card for centre Bullough gave Hoppers a numerical edge. They responded well with Trueman putting Alex Ward away for the bonus point try. Again the conversion attempt hit a post and stayed out.
Leatherbarrow made a long run for Hoppers but lacked support. With Wharfedale back at full strength, winger Hamilton claimed his third try thanks to an interception on halfway. The conversion was easy and the Yorkshiremen were now ten points in front.
Hoppers spurned an easy penalty in front of the posts in favour of going for a try but Davidson could not gather a low pass and the chance was lost. Hoppers habit of allowing their opponents a late try continued with Wharfedale’s replacement scrum-half putting centre Lovegrove away. Once again the conversion was a formality.
The Sale youngsters both made their mark with Birch getting the man of the match vote from most supporters and Trueman covering a lot of ground. Results elsewhere suggest that defensive lapses must be quickly addressed.
Coach Paul Arnold was disappointed but conceded that the better team won. He said
“There were a lot of little things that went wrong with three errors leading to opposition tries. We have plenty to work on before the home game against Macclesfield next weekend.”
Report by John Hetherington, photo by Mike Craig