Report by: John Clark

IN typical Wharfedale fashion this season, they were on the right side of a tight affair and just edged out visitors Fylde to win 27-26 on Saturday afternoon.

The result means that Dale have started the campaign with a 75% winning record having won three of their opening four National League 2 North fixtures, with a maximum two-point winning margin coming in those victories.

They now find themselves 5th in the league table.

The Greens kicked off down the slope just as they did for the Rotherham match and they conceded an immediate penalty, but surprisingly Fylde’s handling was poor, a repeated weakness on the day, and from the scrum they were pushed back easily.

The line out was won by the hosts and a sweeping move to the left saw Mallinson kicking ahead, but his punt went dead. Wharfedale came back again strongly to put immense pressure on Fylde only to concede two penalties when threatening the line. Fylde had been stretched, so it was no surprise that they in turn conceded a penalty, kicked successfully by Sam Gaudie.

The away side to their credit continued to play open rugby through their backs but they made too many mistakes and conceded possession unnecessarily. A poor Wharfedale line out gave Fylde some relief, but their counterattack was ruined by poor rucking. It was then Wharfedale’s turn through indifferent handling to allow a breakaway try by Turner. Gregory converted.

Dale’s 7-3 deficit was not a true reflection of the play in the first quarter, but not to be outdone they scrummaged effectively as so often this season and gave lively scrum half Oliver Riddiough the chance of an open side break before sending Cicognini over under the posts, leaving an easy conversion for Gaudie.

A rare knock on by Gaudie, who yet again was having an outstanding game, gave Fylde the chance to kick to the 20-metre line and good team play ended with a try under the posts by open side flanker Bentley, converted by Smith.

There was still time, after handling errors and infringements by both sides, to take advantage of a Fylde knock on to surge forward with many members of the pack involved. Armstrong completed the job under the posts and Gaudie again converted. 17-14 was the half time lead.

Immediately after the restart Fylde took the lead after good running by Sam Carleton and Turner had allowed Bowker to score under the posts and Smith converted. This gave the visitors a 21-17 lead.

After loose play by both sides Kaup-Samuels was released up the right by Baldwin and threatened. There followed some inconclusive play despite encouraging line out work by Fylde, with Garrod to the fore. Some wild passing inside the Dale half led to Hodgson booting ahead twice, Kaup-Samuels gathering and Gaudie scoring to which he added the extras.

With the score 24-21, a series of left-flanked kicks by Fylde resulted in a try in the corner by Bentley on 62 minutes. This slender two-point lead for the visitors proved not to be enough as they conceded a 77th minute penalty which Ryan Hodgson kicked with aplomb.

So, ended a third riveting match. All three were won by the Greens by two points or less and still without some significant players. The wonderful team spirit has been a decisive factor as has the support of the Dale faithful.

A moving tribute prior to the match was paid by John Spencer to the Wharfedale stalwart Michael Harrison, who Wharfedale had lost earlier in the week, and all stood for a minute’s silence.