Wharfedale 19 Fylde RFC 32: Fylde still unbeaten after fine first half

Captain Adam Lewis led an outstanding Fylde front row at Wharfedale
Captain Adam Lewis led an outstanding Fylde front row at Wharfedale

A superb first-half display saw Fylde take maximum points from their first Roses battle of the season.

Four tries in 30 minutes without reply led to a 29-0 half-time lead.

A shellshocked North Yorkshire side improved greatly in the last 40 minutes and scored three tries of their own but were never within range to force a victory.

If great rugby can’t be played on the Threshfield ground on a sunny early autumn day, then it never can be. And this trip to the Dales is surely the favourite away day for any National Two North supporter.

The Lancashire club’s supporters were certainly present but maybe not in the numbers of recent seasons. Those who did make the trip were delighted at the early stages of the game.

Playing downhill, Fylde were soon camped inside the Greens’ 22-metre area. The forwards mounted a couple of drives, and Hal Chapman and David Fairbrother both were close to touchdowns.

In the eighth minute, at the back of an advancing scrum, Fairbrother had better luck as he forced his way over from five metres, Greg Smith adding the conversion.

Fylde warmed to their task and launched a swift attack down their left, winger Tom Grimes racing along the touchline.

His inside ball bounced loose but Tom Carleton scooped it up and ran 30 metres unchallenged to touch down. Smith missed the conversion but Fylde had established a useful 12-point advantage.

The Greens were struggling for continuity and Smith added a penalty for a high tackle on prop Elliot Horner.

The Fylde front row of Horner, Ben Gregory and skipper Adam Lewis was outstanding and had the upper hand throughout, at times shoving the Greens pack backwards.

In the 27th minute,Fylde stole a Wharfedale lineout and a fluent attack from halfway ended with Connor Wilkinson breaking for a 40-metre try down the right. Smith’s conversion stretched the lead to 22-0.

Sustained pressure from the Greens followed as they camped deep inside the Fylde 22. The visitors gave away a succession of penalties but their defence was exceptional and eventually the ball was cleared.

Wharfedale moved the ball left in the 40th minute but spilled it and Fylde countered, Grimes forcing his way over in the corner for a bonus-point try. Smith’s fine conversion from the touchline completed the first-half scoring.

The second half was rather different, as we’ve grown accustomed to in Fylde’s early-season performances.

The legendary Wharfedale PA announcer, ‘Adge’, colourfully berated his team at half-time and pleaded with a gloomy home crowd to get behind them.

The players responded immediately as they forced Fylde into a knock on and kicked forward. Hooker Dan Stockdale drove over the line for the Greens’ opening score, though fly-half Blakeney-Edwards missed the conversion.

Fylde hit back and their pressure resulted in a penalty which Smith kicked from 40 metres for 32-5.

They threatened again when Smith’s pinpoint cross-kick was caught by Grimes on the 22 but his pass was knocked on.

Flanker Jamie Brookes joined the Greens from Blackburn RUFC in midweek, along with another former Fylde player Tom Burtonwood, and half-time replacement Brookes made a telling break from halfway on 57 minutes.

His tricky grubber kick was not fielded by Fylde and winger Ralph Wellock was the sharpest to score. Blakeney-Edwards converted to reduce the deficit to 32-12.

Play switched to the other end, where Smith missed a penalty after lively scrum-half Adam Lanigan was adjudged to have been tackled in the air.

Wharfedale director of rugby Rob Baldwin has come out of retirement and entered the fray at lock. And on 70 minutes he took advantage of some unconvincing tackling to drive over for his side’s third try, Blakeney-Edwards’s conversion moving them within two scores.

Fylde defended the final 12 or so minutes without panicking and had a chance to extend their lead but another Smith penalty drifted wide.

Fylde were delighted to remain unbeaten and climb to third, behind the last two 100 per cent clubs Caldy and Sedgley Park.

Head coach Warren Spragg said: “I’m really happy with how the lads performed. We came out of the blocks firing, as you need to to have a chance at a club like Wharfedale.

“Our attack was clinical, Connor Wilkinson was unplayable in the first half and our defence was excellent for large parts of the game. We managed the game well when we came under pressure in the second half and showed good composure late in the game.

“There had been lots of talk about the Wharfedale scrum leading up to the game, so it’s only fair that our front row get the credit they deserve.

“We were outstanding in the set-piece, and Elliot Horner, Ben Gregory and Adam Lewis led from the front. Our focus now moves on to Huddersfield and getting a big result at home next week.”

FYLDE: Carleton, Botha, Wilkinson (Forster 78), Rawlings (Dowds 68), Grimes; Smith, Lanigan; Horner, Gregory, Lewis (M Ashcroft 76), Garrod, Conner (Loney 66), Chapman, Vernon (O’Ryan 66), Fairbrother.