Chester 28 Wharfedale 25

THIS was a game that Dale could have won but it was cruelly taken away from them four minutes from the end.

Chester played well in the first half and Dale clung on, to only be trailing 21-8 at half time. Wharfedale dominated the second half for 36 minutes and could have had a winning, bonus point try but for a mistake by the referee.

He was honest and brave enough to admit that Phil Woodhead’s second try should have been allowed, but he had already given Dale a scrum in Chester’s 22. That proved costly as the hosts nicked a last-gasp victory.

It was a magnificent second half performance by the visitors. They outplayed Chester in all areas of the game and would have thoroughly deserved the five-point victory.

Dale opened the scoring with a penalty from Jack Blakeney-Edwards. The visitors started strongly, and they were led by Matty Houghton, who charged at the Chester midfield and had them giving away the penalty.

Chester then asserted themselves and a break by Matt Van Sertima led to Sean Green scoring wide to the right. James Robins landed the conversion.

Later in the half, the hosts hacked a loose ball into Dale’s 22 and good follow was rewarded with a penalty.

The kick to the corner was followed by an effective catch and drive with Joshua Woods touching down. Robins had no problems with the kick and Chester led 14-3.

Dale hit back just after the restart. James Tyson charged down a clearing kick and Rhys Lovegrove picked up the loose ball to score. Blakeney-Edwards saw his conversion hit the upright.

The home side then dominated proceedings but the Dale defence held. On a couple of occasions, Chester players ignored overlaps and were then swallowed up by the defence.

One or two mistakes crept in which did not help Dale but they then won a line out on a rare visit into Chester’s 22. This gave them a chance to attack the line and go into half time with a lead.

The line out was lost and Chester cleared their lines and got field position in Wharfedale's 22.

A dominant Wharfedale scrum was penalised before Phil Woodhead put the ball in and then a missed tackle gave Chester room for Shay Owen to score a converted try.

Chester were probably worthy of the 21-8 lead but Dale showed great determination and were still in touch.

Wharfedale opened the second half with a powerful display of controlled rugby. Runs by Phil Woodhead and Reece Ward forced a penalty in Chester’s 22.

The kick to the corner was followed by a well-executed catch and drive with Dan Stockdale being awarded the try. Blakeney-Edwards converted to leave the score 21-15.

Dale continued to dominate and were playing excellent rugby. Nothing complicated but hard tackling, good running and simple offloads and passes.

A high tackle by Chester’s number eight, David Ford, saw the veteran take a 10 minute rest and Chester’s scrum further depleted.

Dale pressed home the advantage and put the home scrum under intense pressure. The dominance was rewarded when Woodhead darted over for a try and the conversion saw Dale nudge into the lead.

Wharfedale continued to dominate and if Woodhead’s second try had been allowed, it would have established a two-score lead. Instead, their only reward was a Blakeney-Edwards penalty that earned a four-point cushion.

However, it was not to be. Chester regathered the restart and 10 phases later, were awarded a try by Ford which Robins converted.

There were many positives to take back to the Avenue from the game. Chester had much the better of the first half but Wharfedale battled hard and stopped them from establishing a bigger lead.

The second half then saw some of the best rugby from the men in green for a long time. All players contributed to an outstanding performance.

This was a great game of rugby, with both sides entertaining the crowd on a pleasant afternoon.

Wharfedale: Mann, Wellock, Bullough, Lovegrove, Cicognini, Blakeney-Edwards, Woodhead, Altham (Martin 66), Stockdale, Ward (Hirst 51, Ward 77), Hedgley (c), Leacock (Walker 53), Houghton, Tyson (Leacock 64), Burridge Replacements not used: Gaudie, Edwards