Wharfedale got back to winning ways on their long-awaited return to the Avenue with a 31-7 victory over Billingham on Saturday.

From the get-go it would be the visitors that started brighter out of the two teams, but the hosts held strong to see out 14 phases of Billingham pressure, before a Wharfedale penalty forced them back into their own 22.

Two phases later, after a strong Dale lineout, Louis Verity burst through a gap ahead of teeing up James Coulton, who powered his way over to open the scoring with an unconverted try.

Back came the away side, though, and they got very close to the host’s line, but a handling error handed Dale a scrum, and a scrum penalty shortly followed. Rob Baldwin and George Hedgley took play into the visitor’s half but a knock-on halted progress.

Eventually Dale managed to put some phases together and it was the home pack who got the upper hand. The second try was scored by Jake Armstrong who crashed over after taking the ball from Oli Cicognini in the centre. Robbie Davidson was successful from the tee to leave the score 12-0 at half-time.

Dale came out after the interval with great purpose and soon set up camp in the visitor’s 22. Josh Burridge marked his return to 1st team duty with a good jackal after the restart. Penalties followed against Billingham and Dale opted for the set piece. Another dominant scrum led to a break and an unconverted try by Louis Verity.

Back came Billingham with another 15 phases, this time it was finished with Jonathan Horner touching down and Brian Foreman converting.

A minute later Rob Baldwin was sent to the sin bin and Billingham sensed they were on the come-back trail. A good touch kick was followed by a neat catch and drive, and it seemed the try line was at their mercy. Poor discipline then saw Billingham’s prop give away a penalty. It was Dale, however, who then reacted strongly and six penalties later Billingham’s Anthony Jackson joined Baldwin in the sinbin.

The home side finished the stronger, with the Dale pack beginning to dominate. A penalty was awarded close to the try line, but the home side changed their tactics and went for the five-metre lineout. A great decision it was, as the catch and drive was ruthlessly efficient and Josh Burridge was driven over.

The last try came from the backs with a juggling Harry Bullough scoring after some good play by Robbie Davidson and Louis Verity. Davidson converted the last two to see the home side to a comfortable 31-7 victory.

Up next for Wharfedale is the highly-anticipated derby match at home to Otley on Saturday (2:15pm), with the visitors coming into this one sat in 8th in National League Two North.

Wharfedale: Hodgson (Bullough 59); Davidson, Coulton, Cicognini, Hamilton (Darwin 79); Verity, Darwin (Hodgson 72); Dickinson (Meehan 66), Collinson (Wills 59), Armstrong, Stockton, Hedgley (c), Green (Burridge 29, Green 56), Markey (Pinder 29, Markey 36), Baldwin (Burridge 74)