Billingham 22

Wharfedale Foresters 28

WHARFEDALE Foresters won their first meeting with Billingham on Teeside.

The visitors opened the scoring after eight minutes. A second superb break by Ralph Wellock created the opportunity for Kristian Sharples to cross the whitewash and an impressive conversion from Rory McNabb made it 7-0.

For most of the first half the Foresters lived off scraps and defended stoutly but eventually Billingham broke through; their big second row taking the ball straight through from a ruck and barging over near the posts to level.

Wharfedale continued to soak up pressure, tenacious in the tackle and robust in the ruck they withstood wave after wave of Billingham attacks. But eventually the pressure told and Billingham took three points for an infringement at the ruck. Scott Rodgers left the field with an injury, to be replaced by Ben Blackwell.

The half finished with a Foresters’ flourish. Elliott Stockton danced down the touchline and displayed beautiful hands to offload to flying winger Eddie Gill, resulting in a converted try to the Dale.

Billingham were quickly back in the game in the second half. Another good defensive series from Wharfedale ended in a five-metre scrum, although the scrum held firm this time Billingham used the ball well to score in the corner.

By now the Foresters were beginning to enjoy more possession, with regular raids into Billingham’s territory and a scrum that was getting to terms with the plastic turf. This resulted in a bullocking break from second row Simon Borrill, who passed to his engine room partner and Elliott Stockton showed the Billingham backs a clean pair of heels to score under the posts. McNabb added the extras.

It was now time for the Foresters to be on top and Billingham were beginning to make mistakes, which resulted in an interception try by Gill, who streaked away to the posts and gave McNabb a chance to make it four from four conversions.

Just as it looked like Wharfedale were on top and likely to score more points they were handicapped by a series of penalties and two yellow cards in quick succession. As a result they played almost all the final quarter with only 14 men.

At this stage Wharfedale showed their strength in depth with replacements coming on; Colgrave, Bromley and Howick gave fresh impetus and drive.

The last score of the game went to Billingham. A five-metre scrum against the seven Dale forwards giving their backs ball on the front foot to make it 28-22 to the Foresters.

Dale controlled the final five minutes. The forwards producing a line-out catch-and-drive that ate up 30 metres and put Billingham back in their half.

As the ball was kicked off the pitch to end the game the Foresters faithful reflected on another victory in a tough battle against an experienced opposition with bigger weapons.