BIG MATCH PREVIEW - Wharfedale

 

BIG MATCH PREVIEW by Peter Woodroofe

Wharfedale v Moseley, National League 2, at Wharfedale, Saturday, 28 January, 2.30pm

Great setting

Wharfeside Avenue, Threshfield – it’s a splendid place to visit! North Yorkshire, especially in the Wharfedale part of the Yorkshire Dales, is a most picturesque part of “England’s green and pleasant Land”, even when the green pastures are covered with snow that is “deep and crisp and even”, which they could be in January.

Threshfield, near Grassington, is just over a bridge that spans a wide part of the River Wharfe and a turn into Wharfeside Avenue takes the traveller to the entrance to the rugby club which is an oasis of rugby football in the Yorkshire Dales.

Don’t be lulled…

In the club, there is a warm welcome that befits a community club, in fact the very hub of the community, and the bar makes the word ‘oasis’ well chosen. There is no illusion there! Nor are there any illusions when the teams get on to the pitch.

The ambience, the camaraderie, must not lure the Moseley squad into a secure sense of well-being. Wharfedale Rugby Club represents a community, an outpost. On their own ground in their unique environment, Wharfedale play with a dogged determination that makes them difficult to beat even if they are being outplayed.

Remember Moseley’s fate last season – all the play, but beaten 16-10!

A big draw…

This season, Wharfedale have drawn three games at home against the improving Halifax, a Yorkshire derby’, Launceston and Waterloo, and have lost only to Stourbridge, whose confidence away from home pushed them to a 30-26 win.

Away days

This difficult-to-beat, dogged aspect of their play is reflected in their three wins away from home at Barking and Blackheath – where Moseley found it difficult a fortnight ago – and at Henley Hawks, plus yet another drawn game, 28-28 at Manchester. Only Esher, 35-11, Redruth 29-8 and Moseley 39-3, have beaten Wharfedale without conceding a bonus point to date this season, and, in spite of Moseley inflicting upon them their heaviest defeat of the season at Billesley, they must be fully focused with no false sense of security.

Green Machine

Wharfedale’s nickname – the Green Machine – is not a misnomer. In the mood, especially at home, they go grinding on, even, perhaps, to being renamed the Mean Machine!

International encounter

Wharfedale’s President is the England international centre JOHN SPENCER, 14 caps between 1969 and 1971, and the camaraderie is immediately apparent when he and Moseley’s President JAN WEBSTER, who won his first international cap in 1972, meet up.

Their new Head Coach is their former hooker JOHN LAWN, who returned to the club after a spell at Wakefield and has represented the club over 200 times in League rugby. He has come into the side off the replacement bench at times this season.

Experience….

Other experienced players with long-term involvement at Wharfedale, who could be playing on Saturday, include the player with the famous cricketing name HEDLEY VERITY (8-43 for England v Australia at Lord’s in 1934 and 10-10 for Yorkshire v Nottingham at Leeds in 1932). Wharfedale’s Hedley Verity has achieved his own club record, 288 appearances in League rugby. There are other long-serving forwards who have played this season, including locks DAVID LISTER, who holds the club record for the most consecutive League appearances – 153 between 14.3.98 and 14.2.04 – ANTHONY CAPSTICK, over 100 appearances, and props NEIL DICKINSON, over 200 appearances, and PHILP PEEL, over 100 appearances.

Lock ANTHONY CLEMENTS, formerly of Ermisted’s Grammar School, Skipton, represented Cambridge University in this season’s Varsity match and went on as a replacement in Dale’s recent 30-6 win at Henley Hawks.

Another recent newcomer is 21-year-old prop MARTIN HALSALL, on loan from Sale Sharks. The head coach, the aforementioned John Lawn, has come on as a replacement occasionally for young hooker GAVIN HINDLE and other regulars in the pack include No 8 ROB BALDWIN and flankers ALISTAIR and SAM ALLEN.

Young backs

The backs are a young unit, mostly under 23. A newcomer to the club this season is utility back MARK BEDWORTH, a prolific points scorer from Darlington Mowden Park where he had scored 557 League points over the last three seasons and now he is Dale’s leading points scorer with 170 points, including five tries. He has played at fly-half and currently in the centre.

Other newcomers include full-back ADAM WHAITES from North Ribblesdale and winger GAVIN THOMPSON from Kirkby Lonsdale.

Their leading try scorer this season is young winger SIMON HORSFALL with nine and they have scored 35 tries in total, in line with their 6th position in National 2. No club below 6th has scored more tries. Their captain, ANDY BAGGETT, who played in the centre when Moseley and Wharfedale played each other last October, has been playing at fly-half recently, but the experienced CHRIS MALHERBE has retained his position as a quality centre. CHRIS MEEHAN has played at fly-half and JAMES DOHERTY has come into the squad this season and shares the scrum-half position with JOHN NEWTON, another young player.

Winger JAMES HUTCHINSON suffered an injury in the 31-20 win over Orrell, but there appear to be plenty of options in the Wharfedale backs.

Past games

In the previous League encounters between the two clubs, Moseley have won three out of three at home but, at Wharfeside Avenue, after winning 9-3 in difficult conditions in 2003-4, last season, after having most of the play, they failed to convert territorial advantage into points, losing 16-10. They scored two tries by ALISTAIR BRESSINGTON and ADAM CAVES, but with OLLIE THOMAS for once not successful with his kicks, Moseley conceded a try to flanker BEN WADE, now back at Earth Titans, converted by another player with a famous name, JONATHAN DAVIES, who also kicked three penalties.

Recent form

Wharfedale lost 16-9 to the fast-improving Halifax at Ovenden Park last Saturday, but Moseley can go into the game at Wharfeside Avenue with confidence after their fine performance against table-topping Waterloo last Saturday, especially after they were reduced to 14 men after 34 minutes. What a cliff-hanger!

Resilience

Every game is going to test Moseley to the full as they have to play seven matches out of their last 11 away from home – but close finishes in this season to date have given this squad a hardy resilience that will stand them in good stead as the pressure grows even more.
A shoulder injury to NEIL MASON after 65 minutes last Saturday makes him a doubt for this Saturday, but TOM McINTOSH, after a good performance against Earth Titans, is returning to full fitness. NATHAN BRESSINGTON, who has scored tries in successive games, has now scored nine League tries and OLLIE THOMAS is National 2’s leading points scorer with 189.

Quick start needed…

Moseley will be endeavouring to put a spanner in the works of the Green Machine – not an easy task, but current form indicates they should overcome home advantage and the pressure that both Esher and Waterloo are at home, to Halifax and Launceston, respectively. And of course, they need to be quick out of the blocks after the long journey to the Yorkshire Dales.

Wharfedale website and directions


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