Rugby Result: Wharfedale 12 Rosslyn Park 17

More like one point dropped rather than four points gained

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With neighbours Richmond holding Coventry to a draw and Ealing’s match called off, Park’s win in North Yorkshire sees them close to within 4 points of the leaders and 2 points behind the second club. Having scored three tries playing up the slope in the first half, though, Park will be bitterly disappointed at being unable to claim a fourth – bonus point – try in the second half.

The Wharfedale pitch survived an inspection and was a stone-walled oasis of green among the surrounding snow capped hills. A bitter almost gale force wind blew across the field, effectively removing any possibility of long passes.

Park played up a distinct slope in the first half. The opening sparring had barely finished before Wharfedale drew first blood, working the ball to the edge of the Park 22 from where an incisive run from openside flanker Dan Solomi breached the visiting defence. A good try to score, but a poor one to concede. Fly half Jamie Guy converted for 7-0 on 5 minutes.

Park were not panicked and soon took control of the majority of possession, their strong well-drilled pack posing a clear danger. Fly half Scott Sneddon fired a penalty to the corner and the pack looked about to drive over when pulled back for a penalty. They soon came back to drive to the Wharfedale line, and this time it was ‘Dale who were penalised. Sneddon again kicked to touch: another drive, another penalty and the pack drove over for skipper Hugo Ellis to touch down. Sneddon made a good effort with the conversion but the wind had rendered his kick nigh on impossible.

The visitors were in a purple patch and three minutes later Ellis stormed through for his second try to put his side ahead on 18 minutes, Sneddon’s conversion making it 12-7.

Park’s pack gave them an edge, but Wharfedale looked lively when they gained possession. In the prevailing conditions, neither side could really piece together many fluent passages of passing. Park looked the more potent threat but the match was dominated by boot and bludgeon.

However, it was the home side who scored next with a good move up the right releasing flanker James Tyson to score. The conversion was a hopeless prospect but it was 12-12 on 27 minutes.

A good run by scrum half Luke Carter took Park back into Wharfedale territory, from where the pack again drove on getting close to the line before some illegal defending gained a penalty. Sneddon went for the corner, and a short throw saw Park drive over but the referee was unsighted. Relief for the home side was only temporary as from the scrum winger Joe Ajuwa received the ball to crash over, leaving Sneddon a conversion attempt that was brave but doomed. It gave Park a 17-12 lead on 33 minutes.

Park looked likely to score the fourth try they needed at the end of the half, nearly breaching the line before a couple of players looked like squaring up to each other. The referee took the pragmatic option of blowing for half time.

Starting downhill in the second period, having had the better of the first half, the bonus point try looked a certainty. Wharfedale had other ideas and put in a tremendous shift. With immense effort and sheer willpower they forced Park back onto the defence. For 20 minutes the visitors were pretty much held captive in their own half and only some well-organised and committed defending kept their noses in front.

The siege was eventually lifted, and Park went about trying to grab the fourth try they needed. But Wharfedale now had great self-belief and refused to be cracked.

Park’s had their opportunities, getting penalised when a try looked likely, and probably the best chance came when lively centre Paul Mackey looked to have been put through but the ball was knocked forward.

Park deserved their win, and Wharfedale is never an easy place to get a result, but after scoring three tries in the first half they will probably regard this as a point dropped rather than four gained. It’s tough competing at the top.

Park: Edwards; Richards, Ireland, Mackey, Ajuwa; Sneddon; Carter; Liffchak, Bellamy, MacKenzie; Bowley, Boyle; Macfarlane, Rowland, Ellis
Subs: Wright, Brown, Inglis, Whelan, Vincent
Park scorers: Ellis (2T), Ajuwa (T), Sneddon (C).

February 3, 2015