Dale welcomed Airebrough to Cawkill Park on an almost spring like day. With so many games disrupted by the weather it was great to get back into league action. Unfortunately Dales preparation hasn't been great, picking up several injuries in training including Oli Metcafles broken leg plus more players unavailable. After 18 months out through injury Luke Scott- Paul had to be hurried into the starting lineup along with 2nd team skipper Dave Piper. Another player on the long term injured list, George Pearson, came onto the bench along with veteran Stewart Bankier on a day when Dales player resources were severely tested. Big thanks to Ashley Wells for getting guys fit to play.
The first half is one to be soon forgotten with neither team doing anything particularly constructive. Both teams had shots at goal with neither kicker looking confident. Half time 3 - 3, Jack Reynard pen.
Things had to get better. Airebrough deservedly took the lead with a couple of tries helped by silly mistakes in the home defence, one inspired from watching the French fly halfs attempt at controlling the bouncing ball in last weeks 6 nations game ! Dale centre Will Reynolds received the ball in space to shoot over for his teams first try converted by Reynard. Airebrough quickly replied to go 22 - 10 in front on the hour mark.
Eventually Tom Lawsons team woke up finding holes in the visitors defence and stretching play. George Pearson, on in the 2nd half following another injury, caught Reynards long pass and left several cover tacklers sprawled out to finish bravely in the left corner. Reynard had found his kicking boots by now, over went the conversion, 5 points the difference.
Paul Smith had started the day at fullback giving young scrum half Jake Taylor a chance to wear the 9 jersey. Smithy and Jake swapped positions to great effect and when Smithy broke a tackle in midfield there was only going to be one winner. Try awarded wide out on the right, cue Jack Reynards trusty left boot, Dale ahead 24 - 22. Into the final minute and another kick at goal, this one drifted wide and Airebrough gathered to break out of defence as the referee called last play. Prop for the day Charlie Johnston found the ball in his hands putting hearts in mouths as he put boot to ball, thankfully the ball bobbled into touch. Phew....
Wensleydale certainly made hard work of it, the dramatic last quarter sent the home supporters home feeling happy as the players reflected on proceedings. After a difficult week a win is a win as they say, well done guys. Thanks to everyone who stepped up, all part of the learning curve.
Next week Dale travelled to Leeds Mods in Yorkshire 3. This game is now a double header after the cup organisers reversed what was initially a home draw in the cup into an away game !