Wharfedale 16, Fylde 10
Fylde’s hopes of putting more pressure on National One leaders Ealing were ground into the Yorkshire mud at Threshfield, after a very disappointing second-half performance.
A bonus point win would have lifted Fylde to the top, after the Trailfinders lost to Rosslyn Park, but instead the Woodlands club end the year fourth.
Nick Royle’s eagerly-awaited return to the Fylde ranks after his England Sevens commitments did not materialise, the jet-heeled back ruled out the morning of the game with a hand injury and illness.
It was a bitterly cold afternoon at this atmospheric little ground, and Fylde supporters turned out in force, raising as big a cheer when their team emerged as the locals gave to the home side.
After an even first 10 minutes, with both teams warily trying to gain an advantage, Fylde took control.
In their usual style, they tried to keep the ball alive through passing and off-loading, albeit playing up the slope and into the breeze.
Lock forward Gareth Rawlings, who had a fine game in open play, set up the first Fylde try on 17 minutes.
He snaffled a loose ball on his own 10m line and raced downfield, putting in a lovely kick to the left corner. From the ensuing lineout, the Fylde pack drove patiently over.
Hooker Roddam was rewarded for his accurate throw, as he was the last man up in a pile of bodies to claim the try.
Fly-half Richard Kenyon, who missed a straightforward penalty, found the strong wind too much, and his conversion drifted wide.
Wharfedale came back into the game, and although their backs made one or two threatening incursions, the visitors’ defence was up to the task.
But when Fylde were penalised in the 28th minute, centre Tom Davidson kicked a straightforward penalty.
Although Fylde’s backs had running opportunities, they found the Greens’ defence in determined mood. Fylde wingers Olly Viney, making his full debut, and freescoring Oliver Brennand had a few runs, but were unable to find enough space and time before being enveloped by the Wharfe defence.
Fylde had other chances to extend their lead, with driving mauls near the Wharfe line, but they were denied by the determined home side.
In the 30th minute, Fylde’s forwards and backs combined well to create the second try. One of centre Mike Waywell’s bullocking runs set up a few phases of possession, before the ball was moved swiftly left.
Full-back Chris Briers came into the line and raced over from 20m for a neat try. Kenyon’s conversion attempt again failed, but Fylde led 10-3 at half-time.
This was a deserved lead, and should have been bigger given the amount of possession and pressure the visitors had, but they were far short of their penetrative best.
The second half was a completely different story. From the off, Wharfedale dominated possession and territory, playing up the slope.
They were sharper at the breakdown and retained the ball impressively. In the 46th minute, their pressure was rewarded, when right wing Scott Jordan drove over for a try on the right.
Davidson’s conversion went wide, to keep Fylde two points in front.
Fylde broke the Wharfe territorial grip from time to time, but either fell foul of referee Steve Lee, or made elementary mistakes.
They seemed to fall between their usual high-octane running style and a more pragmatic kicking game
Wharfedale got on top again, maintaining a constant barrage, as Davidson kicked a long-distance penalty in the 54th minute to give his side the lead for the first time.
Fylde’s defence was sterling, but ultimately wilted under the pressure in an increasingly tetchy final quarter.
Lock Paul Arnold was sinbinned for a technical offence in the 73rd minute, and a Fylde breakout by their backs broke down with a knock-on inside the Wharfe half, which proved to be their last chance to turn the game.
In the 78th minute, more sustained attacks by Wharfedale finished with a deserved score against the depleted visitors.
Baldwin linked with scrum-half Woodhead, and he put powerful left-winger Simon Horsfall clear to dive in at the corner. Davidson’s conversion from the touchline wasn’t successful, so at least Fylde took a losing bonus point.
This was Wharfedale’s fifth successive win, whereas Fylde will be keen to improve their away form. However, going into the three-week festive break just four points off top spot is a praiseworthy accomplishment.
Fylde: C Briers, Vieny, S Briers, Waywell, Brennand, Kenyon, Wallwork, Griffiths, Roddam Altham, Rawlings, Arnold, Stewart, McGinnis, S Beaumont ; replacements; Lavelle, Livesey, J Beaumont, Ferguson, Depledge.