Chester 28-25 Wharfedale
Leaving it late again!
This was another close run thing. As with Tynedale the previous week, Chester ran up a substantial lead only to see it whittled away. Unlike Tynedale, however, Wharfedale were able to overhaul the home side with the clock running down to full time. It speaks volumes for the wit, fitness and self-belief of the Chester side that they were able to reverse the momentum of the match to steal a win at the death.
The match started with Wharfedale going into an early 0-3 lead following a penalty for holding on in the tackle, but Chester struck back at once with a try in the fourth minute. Centre Macca van Sertima broke 20 metres up the right flank after his side had run back a Wharfedale clearance from deep. He then found wing Sean Green in support outside and Sean ran in the try, which was excellently converted by James Robins from touch.
It soon became clear that Wharfedale had a powerful scrum that was able to push the home pack back and win penalties. The lineouts were more evenly contested but neither side was consistently secure on its own ball. Unfortunately three Chester penalties also failed to find touch. The effect was that Chester were not able to provide a consistent supply of quick ball to play with. Nevertheless their defence was generally a match for what Wharfedale’s attack was able to produce in the first half, forcing errors and winning turnovers.
On 19 minutes Ralph Wellcock the Dale right wing conceded a penalty for not releasing the ball in the tackle. This set up a 5 metre lineout from which the Chester pack drove and hooker Josh Woods crossed for the try. Once again James Robins produced a fine conversion from touch to put his side 14-3 in front. Unfortunately, it was then Chester’s turn to make a defensive error. They were unable to exit successfully from Dale’s restart. Callum Bennett’s attempt at a clearance inside his 22 was charged down by inside centre Rhys Lovegrove, who generally had a strong game in attack, and regathered to score an unconverted try.
The home side had several other attacking opportunities but were not able to score again until the 39th minute. After some consistent pressure Chester set up a five metre scrum in Dale’s right hand corner. No.8 Guy Ford picked up, fed Macca, and Macca carried strongly into contact. The ball was quickly moved right, where lock Shay Owen found an outside gap and rolled through two Dale tackles for a third converted try.
21-8 lead looked like a decent lead to take into half time, perhaps even with a bonus point beckoning. However, any optimism quickly proved unfounded as a challenging second half unfolded. Dale began to dominate possession and territory. Their big forwards began to carry consistently over the gain line making space - notably for their lively scrum half, Philip Woodhead and for bullocking runs from centre Rhys Lovegrove. They drove over for a try from a 5 metre lineout after 46 minutes and fly half Jack Edwards-Blakeney’s conversion made score a much less comfortable 21-15.
Given the pressure coming to bear, Chester’s work rate in defence was excellent, especially scrambling back after a Dale break or half break. However, Guy Ford was binned for an unlucky high tackle in midfield and, faced by fourteen, Dale then upped the tempo. They won successive penalties in the home 22 before scrum half Philip Woodward broke from an advancing scrum to score a converted try just before the hour mark.
With a one point lead and momentum strongly behind them, Wharfedale continued to pressure the home try line, but Chester’s defence continued to hold out until the 73rd minute. Then, having forced a Dale knock on in deep defence, they played catch up, running from deep in their 22, and conceded a penalty. Here there was moment of confusion, when Dale’s players wanted to kick to the corner and, potentially, build an unassailable lead. However, one of their subs had already been sent on with the kicking tee. Tom Foden had quick wittedly spotted this and informed the referee, who following the Laws, obliged them to kick for goal. This moved them four points in front at 21-25, but gave Chester at least the hope of overhauling them in dying minutes with a try.
At last the home side was able to get a foothold in Dale territory by reclaiming the restart kick. From there they showed great patience, carrying the ball through the pack deep into Dale’s right hand corner. Chester battered the visitor’s tiring defence until at last they crossed in the corner. There followed a lengthy discussion between the referee and his assistant before the try was finally awarded - to the delight of the home support. James Robins completed an excellent afternoon with the boot, scoring a third touchline conversion, to make the final score 28-25.
There was an element of getting out of jail with this result, and no one could begrudge Wharfedale a very well earned bonus point. Nevertheless, the Chester side showed great resilience in defence and an ability to take the scoring chances that came their way. That they sneaked result at the end also clearly demonstrated both their fitness and self- belief.