WHEN asked why Wharfedale were playing better since the turn of the year, experienced coach Hedley Verity said simply: “I don’t think that we had a good enough pre-season.”

The club’s youth rugby development officer added: “If we had people training from the start of July for two months like they are now then we wouldn’t be in the position that we are in now.

“But due to injuries or other things, people found reasons not to train and we only won two matches before the end of December.

“The defeat at Otley was a poorish performance, although Otley played well, and that setback spoilt quite a few of our Christmases.

“However, we felt that wins were coming – we should have won at leaders Hinckley in early December – and we have won five out of six since the turn of the year.”

Home wins have come over Luctonians, Sheffield, Chester and last Saturday against Huddersfield, with Verity calling the 43-5 victory “our best performance of the season”, and they have also triumphed at Blaydon.

He added: “The key was the first 15 minutes where we had no ball and no territory.”

The Greens survived six line-outs in the first eight minutes, and Verity said: “Huddersfield went from kicking to the corner to taking tap penalties as they couldn’t find a way through, and we took our chances when they came.

“Nearly all of our pack have stood up to be counted recently, and Kieran Frost has brought that freshness and swagger since he came into the team from November onwards.

“Matty Houghton has also been a key signing, but Richard Rhodes, George Hedgley, James Tyson, Stevie Graham and Reece Ward have all played their part too.

“But we are far from being out of the woods and just have to keep that momentum going.”

Ahead of their trip to Leicester Lions on Saturday, the Greens are only one place and six points above the drop zone.

Verity, who is part of the coaching team of Michael Harrison and Stevie Graham in head coach James Doherty’s absence for a month following ankle surgery, added: “It is a game that we are targeting as Leicester Lions aren’t having a particularly good season either and are only ten points (and four places) above us, but we will have to watch their back three, who are electric.”

Wharfedale’s experienced chairman of rugby Harrison says that the trip to the Lions is timely.

He said: “We have beaten some mid-table teams at home – now we have to start beating them away from home.”

As for coping without Doherty, Harrison said: “Stevie is an experienced coach and his heart is with Wharfedale, which is where he was before he went to Ilkley, while Rob Baldwin has the off-the-field role that he has always wanted and the lads listen to him as he is very experienced.

“But hopefully James, whose ankle operation went well, will be back with us in two or three weeks’ time.”

Wharfedale make one change for the trip to Leicester.

Winger Graham is unavailable so Tom Mann comes in .

Fit-again centre Rhys Lovegrove is named among the replacements.

Wharfedale: Robbie Davidson, Joel Gill, Tom Davidson, Harry Dunne, Tom Mann, Tom Barrett, Phil Woodhead (capt), Toms Asejevs, Dan Stockdale, Reece Ward, Kieran Frost, Richard Rhodes, Matt Houghton, James Tyson, George Hedgley. Replacements: Adam Howard, Ian Larkin, Joe Altham, Will Lawn, Rhys Lovegrove.