Rugby Result: Rosslyn Park 26 -15 Wharfedale
Park do enough against awkward 'Dale to keep tabs on league leaders
Three second-half tries eventually eased Park home against a battling Wharfedale side at the Rock, with a 26-15 win ensuring James Buckland’s squad retained their position in National One’s top six.
In an often fractured game in south-west London, it took the sin-binning of ‘Dale scrum-half Harry Skelton early on after the break for Park to finally prise open the visitors, with Hugo Ellis, Tom Whiteley and Adam Field going over in the space of 13 minutes to give their side only a third bonus-point win this season.
With Esher continuing their excellent start to the season, demolishing Coventry a short distance away in Surrey to move to the top of the table, and both their other two London rivals in Blackheath and Richmond also claiming impressive victories, Park had to deliver.
Adam Frampton’s try 25 minutes in got them on the board, but a combination of poor decision-making, difficult weather conditions and lack of cutting-edge in attack ensured Wharfedale were more than a match. Huw Morgan’s try, benefitting from a cute offload from the outstanding Cameron Hudson, had the Green Machine in front at the break but Skelton’s dismissal, for hitting a man without the ball, would prove to be very costly.
Speaking to the press post-match, boss Buckland was pleased with how his team performed in the 20 minutes after half-time, but called on his group to deliver an 80-minute performance.
“Our game management in that spell immediately after the break was very, very good and we delivered what we had worked on all week,” he said.
“We’ve got some young guys at half-back and they’re expected to make big decisions in a split-second, and today they made some really good ones. We know, though, that we only played in patches today. Yes, we have got the bonus-point, which is obviously very important, but we need much more.
“A number of boys in the group needed minutes, and a number of those were on the bench today. We took a bit of a gamble in emptying the bench all in one go, with the aim of giving those boys time to gel. That didn’t quite work out today, but we’ve learnt plenty and we move on.”
With injuries and unavailability ruling out a selection of his senior players, Buckland recalled prop Nick Lovell and winger Stephen Hihetah from their loan spell at East Grinstead, with Charlie Piper handed a first start of the season at hooker.
Neither side made any noticeable impression in the opening moments, with the strong wind proving a menace to both kickers and throwers alike. Nevertheless, Park were keen to get it moving it as often as they could and, after Jamie Guy’s penalty got the scoreboard moving, the hosts should have had their first try.
Andrew Henderson and Matt Hawke combined neatly to open up the ‘Dale defence, giving Park full-back Henderson sight of the line. Having done all the hard work in slipping past a couple of defenders, the summer signing from Ealing lost control of the ball, and the opportunity to put his team in front.
It wouldn’t be the last time that those two would struggle to keep hold of the ball at key moments, but it wasn’t long until Park eventually did get over the whitewash.
With Guy missed a second effort at goal, Park responded. A lovely break from Tom Whelan, combining both sleight of hand and sheer strength, created a hole in the ‘Dale midfield and Park poured through. No less than ten phases later, it was Adam Frampton who was emerging from the corner and being congratulated, the Welshman scoring his second of the season since making the move from Newport.
The home support were under the impression that the score could be the catalyst to finally bring it all together for Park, but ‘Dale responded in the best possible fashion.
Inching their way into the Park red zone, a simple set-move off a 5m scrum would eventually send over Huw Morgan without a hand being laid on him.
Guy’s straightforward pass to Hudson should have seen the big ‘Dale centre grounded, but clean through he went. The Park tacklers had a second opportunity to fell their target, but Hudson remained strong and produced a deft offload – one that many of us have become accustomed to seeing over the past six weeks from a certain Kiwi – which Morgan gleefully gobbled up to scoot in under the posts.
Confidence restored, ‘Dale settled, niggling away at the Park ball carriers and forcing plenty of errors. They were not bereft of any ideas of their own, also. Hudson was becoming ever more influential, sucking in two or three defenders every time he got hold of it, with Harry Bullough and Matt van Sertima, albeit with contrasting styles, looking to play on the front foot at every opportunity.
A clearly geed up Park came out firing right from the resumption of play and even before he went on to add another to his season’s ever-growing tally, Ellis was held up over the line just 90 seconds into the half.
Skelton’s yellow followed and, from the resulting penalty, Whelan thumped the ball into the corner. A clean, swift lineout was driven to the line and beyond with Ellis enjoying the ride at the back of the maul, and having to simply tumble to the floor as his colleagues swept the ‘Dale eight backwards.
With a numerical advantage, Park upped the tempo. Minutes after taking the lead, Whiteley scuttled 20m down an unprotected blindside to dot down in the corner and, just after Guy missed his second penalty shot of the afternoon, Field added the a fourth to ultimately take game away from ‘Dale and give the hosts a much needed bonus-point.
Hanging back, Ellis was the receiver of a ‘Dale clearance kick and rather than pinging it back himself, or finding his nearest outside back, the skipper held on. Scanning quickly, he picked a gap and made his move. With ‘Dale’s defence splintered, he plundered through the yards, momentum firmly with him. It instigated a move than went through no less than four pairs of hands - Adam Field was the last of those, and the winger went over in the same corner as Whiteley to complete a tough period for Wharfedale.
Tommy McGee’s men, as they have showed over a staggering 18 years in English rugby’s third tier, have plenty of resolve about them and they scored a deserved second try of the afternoon through Skelton.
Matt van Sertima’s outside break left Park short of numbers and though Hihetah, recalled for his debut after scoring three times while on loan at National Three outfit East Grinstead, did his best, he couldn’t quite catch Skelton in time as he raced to the line.
Park should have had a fifth as the game petered out to an inevitable conclusion, Hawke unable to take advantage of quick ball and an overlap late on. Even with Maurice Nwakor in the bin after a disagreement with Skelton, Park managed to do enough to secure a seventh win in nine.
Having acknowledged his team would have to produce more if they were to challenge for top spot, Buckland immediately turned his thoughts to the challenge that awaits at Molesey Road against an in-form Esher.
“Esher and Richmond have both started very well and for Esher to put 46 points on Coventry is a superb effort – they’ve obviously flying at the minute,” said the boss.
“We’re looking forward to it, but we know that we’re going to have to front up. We will put in the time on the training pitch this week and prepare as best we can, and it’s in our hands to go there and build on everything we’ve done so far this season.
“This division is tough, and there are a lot of good teams in it, so we know we’ve got another hard week ahead of us. Overall, today is a case of ‘job done’, but credit must go to Wharfedale taking it to us. We’ve got the result we wanted, and we can now focus on getting that consistency over the entirety of a game as we look forward to heading to Esher on Saturday.”
“If we can put in an 80-minute performance, we’ll give ourselves a great chance of getting the right result.”
Kick-off at Molesey Road on Saturday is at 3pm.
As ever, full match commentary will be available via our official twitter feed, @rosslynpark, throughout the afternoon and a match report will be on the website early next week.
ROSSLYN PARK (7) 26
WHARFEDALE (10) 15
Replacements (all used): Bellamy, Lovell, Rowland, Crow, Hihetah.
Sin bin: Nwakor (78).
Wharfedale: Bullough; Prell, Hudson, Morgan, van Sertima; Guy, Skelton; Altham, Stockdale, Wade; Willet, Hedgley; Burridge (c), Howick, Baldwin.
Replacements (all used): Steel, Cano, Whyte, Myers, Fewtrell.
Sin bin: Skelton (42).
Ref: Mr. Veryan Boscawen
Mo Sher (@MSSher1)
November 10, 2015