Wharfedale vs PGRFC

Date: 03 September 2022

Wharfedale 57 vs 18 PGRFC

The lads began their return to National League rugby with a trip to Wharfedale where, supported by a coachload of the faithful, they faced a baptism of fire at the hands of a team well used to playing at this level.

Conditions under foot were good for running rugby and, contrary to the forecast, the weather was fine with no wind to bother the kickers as the visitors, led by captain Harry Moulding, were made to wait on the pitch for several minutes until their opposition arrived.

Hoppers kicked off and opened the scoring less than ten minutes into the game with a penalty kick by Ben Pearson after a series of phases took them into the Wharfedale 22, an attack however, which left Kev Brown departing the field injured, replaced by Matt Crow.

Wharfedale then gained a lineout on the Preston 22 and broke towards the 5m line. The ball was chipped forward into the path of the onrushing Wharfedale forwards but was collected by Pearson who ran the width of the field to cover when a try seemed certain. His towering clearance kick then took the visitors up to the opposition 5m line briefly relieving the pressure.

However, despite Hoppers’ good start, their hosts soon stamped their mark on the game with first of nine tries for the afternoon from prop, Beesley and whilst ex- Hopper Tom Davidson missed his conversion attempt, the home side moved into the lead, 5 – 3.

Hoppers continued pressing towards the Wharfedale line and were awarded a penalty just outside the 22. Pearson struck again to put his side in front but the lead was short-lived as Wharfedale swept in a further four tries by Burridge, Bullough and Dickinson who scored two, and two conversions from Davidson.

Things got no better for the visitors when Oga Mabaya was helped off with an obviously painful injury to be replaced by Noah Miller making a welcome return to the side after a long term injury of his own had kept him out for most of the previous season.

All was not lost though as Hoppers mounted their own attack with a clean break into the Wharfedale 22 by Josh Longson who made good ground and passed to Jacob Browne who then found support from Will Clapham and the winger darted in at the corner. Pearson’s kick was wide of the mark from out on the wing and at the break the scoreboard showed 29 – 11.

The home side were well drilled and fast on the attack, running through the defence and breaking tackles almost at will, their support play ensuring their continual progress towards the line. Hoppers had struggled to secure the ball and when they did it was often lost by missed pass or knock-on.

Hoppers started the second half waiting once again for their opposition to come out. When they did, another converted try from Bullough in the first minute set the tone for the rest of the match.

The Preston lads replied ten minutes later with one of their own when, after a series of phases pressing the Wharfedale line, Scott Richardson finally collected the ball and crossed just right of the posts. The conversion from Pearson was good but it was to be the last time the visitors troubled the scoreboard.

Three more scores, two from Canny an

d one from Gaudie, the last two converted by Mann, secured the win for the home team.
Hoppers played with spirit and battled on to the final whistle but the loss of full back Kev Brown and prop Oga Mabaya through injury in the first quarter of the game did not help them and in the final twenty minutes when Wharfedale had two players in the sin bin, they were unable to capitalise on their advantage.

After the match Head Coach Joel Unsworth was quite pragmatic:

‘It was a wake-up call and there were elements in attack that looked pleasing, the phase-play shape was good and the scrum went well but defensively a lot has to be worked on.

To be fair, it’s not all doom and gloom, they are a very good side, particularly in broken field and their turnover play was very impressive.

It’s a reality check that we will focus on in training this week’

With the derby home fixture against Fylde next week there will be no let up for Grasshoppers who have to regroup and find a way to win.

Report by John Le Page, pictures by Ro Burridge.

2022-09- 03 Wharfedale v Preston Grasshoppers

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