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New-look Wharfedale can take plenty from this feisty warm-up
Buy this photo » Wharfedale's players and officials observe a minute's silence for former coach and press officer Gordon Thomas, whose funeral is tomorrow at Skipton Crematorium (1.40)
Wharfedale 30, Otley 35
Otley, finishing the stronger of the sides and edging the try-tally 4–3, just about deserved their joyously celebrated local ‘bragging rights’ after this humdinger of a match.
In truth, the game had very little of a pre-season warm-up about it.
Referee Will Halford had to sort out a number of very unfriendly melees and was perhaps somewhat lenient in issuing just two cards, including a late red to Otley centre Mike Coady.
Nevertheless, setting aside the ‘over-enthusiam’, there was entertainment aplenty.
The game, particularly in the first half, was played at a blistering pace, and enterprising play produced some fine tries.
Add in two kickers at the top of their game – Tom Barrett for the Greens, Matt Ireland for the visitors – and the scoreboard was never quiet for long.
While the result will be especially satisfying for Otley, who look to have the makings of a team that could well challenge for promotion from SSE National League Two North this season, there was also much in the game to encourage Dale’s coaching staff and fans.
Head coach Jon Feeley is moulding a new-style side, including many young players.
He wants a more open, free-flowing game, rather than the emphasis on forward power of recent seasons.
Feeley’s charges responded with stunning effect in the first half. They led 24-10 after just 22 minutes – and seemed to be well capable of a decisive victory.
The Greens had further opportunities to add to their lead in the tempestuous opening quarter, but the lack of a specialist jumper (Richard Rhodes being among a number of unavailable or injured players) meant that they struggled to secure their own line-outs.
Crucially, two early chances from penalties to touch close to the visitors’ line went begging.
Thereafter, however, Otley – discipline improving somewhat after prop and skipper Adam Blades returned from an early yellow-card sojourn – gradually established a foothold in the match.
By the 44th minute they had the lead for the first time at 25-24.
The home side briefly recaptured the advantage with a Tom Barrett drop goal, but a penalty and converted try put the visitors into a two-score lead. Another Barrett penalty set up a tense finale.
The Dalesmen had the better of possession in the closing stages, and centre Nick Taylor was unlucky to knock-on as he crossed the Otley line. That apart, however, penetration of a determined defence proved beyond their best efforts.
In a frantic opening, Wharfedale winger Oli Cicognini evaded three tackles to cross in the left corner for a second-minute try, splendidly converted by Barrett.
The scores were level just three minutes later, Otley scrum half Stephen Dedpledge rounding off an incisive move, full back Ireland confidently adding the extras.
Barrett’s first penalty, plus a converted mauled try – No 8 Aaron Myers claiming the honour – made it 17–7.
Following a towering penalty strike by Ireland for the visitors, home fans thrilled to the sight of scrum half Philip Woodhead’s swerving run to touch down under the posts for 24–10 – and the game was barely out of the first quarter.
Things calmed down a tad after that, the sole further score before the break being Depledge’s second try – this one mauled over from a line-out – with Ireland again making no mistake with the conversion.
Inside five minutes of the restart Otley had the lead, courtesy of an Ireland penalty and a try in the right corner for winger James Wood – the conversion attempt being Ireland’s sole failure of the day.
Barrett’s drop goal followed two minutes later, and then another penalty from Ireland (51) saw the lead change hands for the third time.
The hectic action continued. Barrett had his only miss with a long penalty attempt (52). Then, on 55 minutes, Otley No 8 Dan Temm surged down the right wing for a fine try to stretch the visitors’ lead, Ireland adding the conversion.
Barrett’s penalty (63) reduced the deficit to five points but there the scoreboard stuck to the final whistle.
Wharfedale: Adam Whaites; Josh Prell, Nick Taylor, Tom Davidson, Oli Cicognini; Tom Barrett, Philip Woodhead; Chris Steel, Ian Larkin, Adam Howard, Jim Mason, Richard Brown, Josh Burridge, Nathan Myers, Aaron Myers. Replacements: Matt Freeman, Luke Cole, Jake Armstrong, Dan Solomi, Matt Dudman, Will Bell, Will Davidson, Robbie Davidson, Dan Stockdale.
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