WHARFEDALE's Under-18s defied a mismatch in size to lift a trophy when they beat Old Elthamians 31-21 in the RFU National Colts final on Sunday at Sixways Stadium in Worcester.

Neutrals, looking at the two teams warming up for this final, could have been forgiven for thinking they were about to witness a mismatch.

The Old Elthamians side, containing players in the Saracens Academy and other top London outfits, were physically massive compared to Wharfedale’s Colts.

But the Green Army, which had travelled in force down to Worcester, knew from experience that size would be not be everything.

Old Elthamians found this out for themselves within ten seconds of the kick-off, when Madison Hunting’s mobility and superb jackaling technique won him a penalty, and gave Dale an early 3-0 lead.

Old Elthamians responded brilliantly, off-loading to give scrum-half Jacob Buckley a fine try, which was converted, to give the Londoners a 7-3 lead after five minutes.

Within two minutes Dale had restored their advantage – Hunting slicing through the heart of the Elthamians defence to create space out wide for Tom Doherty to fly in on the right wing.

The crucial phase in the match came midway through the first half. After a period of Elthamians pressure, Hunting was yellow carded.

Down a man, and defending their own line, Wharfedale not only kept the opposition scoreless for the next ten minutes, but gradually moved up field.

Once they were they back to 15 men Louis Verity put Oscar Canny through under the posts.

The Londoners came straight back with a converted try by winger Jed Hamilton, as Wharfedale held a 15-14 half-time lead.

Throughout the game Wharfedale’s instinct was to attack, and in the second half the sizeable Elthamians pack started to tire, and despite a huge weight advantage, were time and again pushed back in the scrum.

With Elthamians out-muscled up front, out-run in the backs, and out-thought around the park, it was only a matter of time before Dale’s advantage began to tell.

First a penalty in front of the posts put them 18-14 up. Then a run from scrum-half Henry McNab put Owen Bullock in on the wing.

Replacement winger Jordan van Beek was unlucky to have a try ruled out in the corner, but moments later the Dale pack drove through Elthamians to give them a 28-14 lead with six minutes to play.

The Green Army in the stands was showing a similar dominance in decibels, but they were momentarily silenced by a second fine try by Hamilton.

Wharfedale calmed their supporters’ nerves by playing out the remaining minutes on the attack.

The final act of play led to a Dale penalty, and a final scoreline of 31-21.

This Wharfedale team has been superbly coached, and obviously it includes remarkable individual talents, but ultimately the team’s great success has come from their strength as a unit. In an age when rugby players move from club to club, this group of lads has been together for over a decade. They should take honor in having made a great Wharfedale team, and having won a distinction of immense pride for the club as a whole. National champions.

Wharfedale: Ryan Hodgson, Owen Bullock, Tom Russell, Oscar Canny, Tom Doherty, Louis Verity, Henry Macnab (c), James Robinson, Jack Pinder, Omari Samuels, Joseph Myers, Finlay Brewster, Sam Dickinson, Madison Hunting, Frank Watkinson. Replacements: Ben Patchett, Rob Lancaster, Jack Thompson, Harry Driver, Chance Marsden, Nick Brewer, Jordan Van Beek.