Upbeat after consecutive league wins, Sheffield 2nd XV made the trip to league leaders Wharfedale, hoping to keep their resurgence going. There were several changes to the side that walloped West Park Leeds the previous week, with Sam Sumner, Joe Carrington and Luke de Normanville coming into the pack along with club captain Mike Bradford. In addition, the back line was strengthened with the experienced Gareth Morley moving to outside centre and Ben Collar being promoted from the 3rd team to bolster the bench.
Sheffield’s recent form was evident in an extremely positive start. The scrum was powerful and some excellent backs moves got the boys in the red zone for much of the opening quarter. Unfortunately some sloppy errors brought back memories of early season form in which a powerful performance was not evident on the score board. Indeed, a Sheffield knock-on in the Wharfedale twenty-two led directly to the first score of the day. The hosts broke at speed to open the scoring and lead 7-0 against the run of play.
Sheffield stayed positive and were still very much on top upfront. However, the quality of running in the opposition back-line came to the fore again and led to a second score.
Sheffield again responded with physical power, but errors were to be an unfortunate running theme - the ball again being knocked on close to the Wharfedale line moments before the break - credit to the hosts, they capitalised well from the resulting scrum. This third try was of excellent quality, sweeping the length of the field and including multiple off-loads. From almost being within a score the boys went into half-time 19-0 down.
The second half was difficult viewing. Some more high-quality back play saw Wharfedale run in some excellent tries that any side would have had difficulty in keeping out.
At 31-0 down, a long way from home, many sides would have crumpled. However, excellent leadership from experienced players including Carrington, Parker and Williams resulted in Sheffield maintaining pride and fighting to the end. Good quality tries from Weeratunga and Williams got the boys on the score-sheet and epitomised the strong attitude of the side to keep going whilst facing an attacking onslaught and a very strong opposition bench.
Final Score: Wharfedale Foresters 55-12 Sheffield 2nd XV
Despite the negatives, there were many things to take forward. James Hall made his 2nd team debut after featuring for the senior colts and 3rd XV this season. Upon being introduced from the bench he made himself noticed with carries, tackles and strong work at the breakdown – a high quality debut. Youngsters making an impression was the theme for the afternoon, epitomised in the performance of young Archie Crapper, who was awarded Man of the Match. A tireless effort, Crapper was prominent in the loose with a high number of powerful carries and aggressive play in the tackle area and breakdown, backed up by much needed quality in the set piece. A star for the future without doubt.
Next up for the boys is another difficult away fixture at Bilingham RUFC. If Sheffield learn the lessons required from Saturday, then they will have every chance of picking up a great result.