Chester 1st XV 10 - Wharfedale 3
October 7th 2017
The character of this match was determined in the hour before kick off, when heavy rain began falling - and continued to do so well into the second half. The result was a slippery playing surface and an even slippier ball. This put a premium on being able to control the ball when in possession which, one would think, neither side fully mastered to their satisfaction.
Chester began promisingly with the advantage of the wind, coming quite close to scoring twice in the first few minutes. A missed overlap and then a knock on meant these chances were neglected, but Liam McGovern was successful with a penalty from 28 metres after 8 minutes to put the home side in front. It was already clear that both sides were finding it difficult to retain the ball when they moved it through the hands, and Wharfedale’s backs were also having difficulty staying on their feet when in possession.
Chester continued to dominate territory and to create half chances, but were unable to make progress on the scoreboard, partly because of a willing Wharfedale defence, but also, arguably, by being a bit too ambitious with their offloads given the difficult conditions. It was certainly a day to look after the ball carefully. Their clearest early opportunity came when right wing Macca van Sertima crossed under the Wharfedale posts only to be called back for crossing earlier in the move. Wharfedale for their part managed to even the score after 26 minutes with a penalty by Robbie Davidson on a rare excursion into Chester territory. However, Chester at last made what was to prove a match-winning breakthrough in the 30th minute. Following a scrum in midfield Craig Ross made progress up the left wing before the forwards took over winning quick ball in the visitors’ 22, before moving it back left to Andy Baston who charged over for the try. Liam McGovern managed a difficult conversion from wide out to put Chester ahead 10-3. Little did the spectators suspect that this was to be the final score of the match.
In many ways the second half was the reverse of the first. Wharfedale were able to harness the elements to their advantage, while the home side found it difficult to exit their own half for any period of time. Wharfedale’s scrum became increasingly dominant as the half progressed, but they were unable to turn ample pressure into points. Chester’s defence remained solid and the visitors lacked the creativity and accuracy to break it down. Arguably, the best opportunity of the half fell to Chester just after the hour mark. Ed Morris turned over the ball after a Wharfedale fumble and some slick handling put Craig Ross into space on the visitors’ 22. Craig crossed for what looked like a well-worked try, only to be called back for a forward pass.
The remainder of the match consisted of Wharfedale relying on their pack to pound the Chester try line. As the match approached the 80th minute they were camped deep in the home 22. The referee, Mr. ApGeraint-Roberts, set 5 metre scrums five times, any of which might have led to a pushover or a penalty try, but the home forwards held firm. On the fifth occasion the Wharfedale pack moved the ball right and attempted to batter their way over with an interminable series of pick and goes, but home defence was excellent and, as the half reached the 50th minute, forced a knock on to secure the win.