UNFORTUNATELY for Wharfedale, 2023 started in the way the previous year finished as they fell to their third league defeat on the bounce at Hull Ionians on Saturday.

The visitors couldn’t get a foot hold in the game for the opening 25 minutes, and this cost them greatly. Hull were able to run in four tries in this period and it immediately set Dale on the backfoot.

The away side did have a promising attack early on when Sam Gaudie broke through the defence, however, his run ended with a high tackle from a Hull defender. The ref then reversed the decision because a Wharfedale player had gone to ground after the foul play by Hull.

Hull’s first try came after five minutes from a kick return which saw their backs develop play on the right side of the pitch. Some weak tackling allowed them to make progress before Jack Townend broke through to score an unconverted try.

Eleven minutes later Hull burst clear after some scrappy play in midfield; Lewis Minikin touched down and then added the conversion.

Hull’s third try came from another kick return. They received the ball just in their own half and set off down the left wing. Good support and offloading led to a Sam Pocklington try which was not converted. 

 The bonus point try came after penalties against Dale saw the home side end with a five-metre line out. Four phases later (with a penalty advantage having again been awarded) James Sanderson crashed over. Minikin added the extras to take the score to 24-0.

At last, Wharfedale turned up and started playing. The East Yorkshire side began to look vulnerable as Dale started putting phases together. After some good interplay between forwards and backs, Harry Bullough nudged the ball forward with a grubber. He recollected his own kick and the Green Machine quickly recycled the ball and Sam Gaudie popped over. Robbie Davidson hit the post with the conversion but Dale were finally on the scoreboard.

Hull kicked off and the visitors soon sent the ball back to the I’s backs. This time the fluency deserted them and some poor passes soon led to Oscar Canny pouncing on the ball and evading the Hull midfield. He ran from the half-way to touch down. Davidson added the conversion to reduce the scores to 24-12

However, Hull finished the half with another try to dent Dale’s driving ambition. George Newburn crossed the whitewash with Minikin slotting from the tee. 31-12.

Dale started the second half with much greater belief and were soon on the front foot. I’s started to rack up penalties and Dale ended with a five-metre line out. The pack drove close to the line and then George Hedgley dived over from close range for an unconverted try.

Minikin then added a penalty kick to take Dale further away from a losing bonus point and leaving Dale needing to score three times to win. The try bonus point try for Dale came from Sam Gaudie and Davidson added the conversion. Dale strived to close the gap but good defence from Hull thwarted them. The last score was again Minikin from the tee to leave the score 37-24.

Wharfedale Director of Rugby, Simon Verbickas, said after the game: “If we could remove the first 25 minutes with their four tries and a bonus point secured, the last 55 minutes of the game saw us more than competitive. We have just got to be more confident in the first part of the game and stop allowing teams to get settled in on their home patch or even if they are visiting the Avenue. We need to get the scoreboard ticking over before the opposition. I think if we had scored first, or kept them out for 15-20 minutes, it would have been a different picture.”