Preston Grasshoppers 34 Wharfedale 41
WHARFEDALE rewarded the large detachment of supporters who crossed the Pennines with their first away win for 16 months.
Grasshoppers were already consigned to relegation but played an impressive part in the match and had strong leads in the early stages of both halves.
Dale never gave up, fought back and in the end ran out winners by six tries to four.
The opening 12 minutes were dominated by the home side and resulted in individual tries from Niall Crosley and Matthew Gargett. Allen Lewis converted both and then added a penalty to give Hoppers a 17-0 lead.
Jamie Guy opened Dale's account when he followed up a Phil Woodhead box kick, gathered the ball, broke the defence and ran in from 40 metres.
Tom Barrett missed from the tee but five minutes later converted Joe Altham’s try after the prop had followed up the stand-off's chip, recovered the ball and crashed over under the posts.
Lewis added another penalty for Hoppers before Dale closed to within a point with a converted try by Barrett.
The move started from a scrum eight metres from Dale’s line. A good forward moving scrum led to a Josh Burridge charge.
Josh Prell and George Hedgley continued the attack before Barrett played his part with a deft chip. The deficit was only one point at the break.
Preston scored two more tries at the start of the second half from Oga Mabaya and Lewis Allen.
Allen’s conversion gave Preston another good lead. This was despite Dale playing good rugby. Jamie Guy ran a good line and was clear, only for the eagle-eyed ref to judge the pass from Barrett as forward.
A minute later Dale worked hard to press the Hoppers line until a touch of family farce kicked in.
Joe Altham, who might have tripped up and scored under the posts, decided to pass and his brother, Peter, took the ball.
Peter plays for Preston and started a counter attack which eventually led to Mabaya scoring under Dale’s posts.
A further error led to another Preston try. Dale managed to give the ball away for Allen to sprint 60 metres to the line.
An away win now looked extremely unlikely and Dale seemed doomed to spending a whole season without an away victory.
Wharfedale battled hard and forced Preston into their own 22. They turned the ball over, fed James Tincknell who ran at the defence and fed Adam Howard who bulldozed his way over from eight metres.
The Hoppers restart was taken by Burridge who ran out of the 22, good support and good hands gave Tincknell room to press the attack in to Preston territory before releasing Scott Jordan down the left wing to score.
Two tries in two minutes had set up a thrilling finish. Could Dale at last finish a match away from home in style and grab a victory?
Preston were not going to give in without a fight and it took two pieces of brilliance to turn the game.
First Rob Baldwin and Lewis Wilson combined to hold a Preston player up and win the put in at the scrum. Second was a defence shattering break from Barrett who released Tincknell to score the try which put Wharfedale ahead.
Barrett’s conversion gave Dale a four-point cushion with ten minutes to go.
Preston mounted an offensive and had a line-out deep in Dale’s 22. Pulses were racing, hearts were pounding.
Hoppers won the line-out and went through five phases before Dale forced a turn over and got the ball away.
With two minutes to go Dale won a penalty 40 metres from the home try line. An injury forced a long stoppage and a lengthy debate before Barrett took the three points on offer.
It proved to be the final score of an entertaining ten-try encounter to bring down the curtain on Wharfedale's National Two North campaign.
Wharfedale H Bullough; Jordan, Tincknell, Guy (Wellock 52), Prell; Barrett, Woodhead; J Altham (Meehan 57), Stockdale (Larkin 45), Howard (J Altham 70), Rhodes, Hedgley, Baldwin (c), Wilson, Burridge. Replacements (not used): Borrill, Swainson.