Wharfedale 21 Fylde 17

Fylde's RU Chris Briers
Fylde's RU Chris Briers
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Fylde suffered their first defeat of the National One season to a last-minute try from a rampant Wharfedale pack, having led 17-3 at the interval at Threshfield.

The Greens took total control of the second half and crowned their cmeback when a driving maul edged over the try line.

The game followed a very similar pattern to last season’s clash on this ground, but in very different conditions.

Last December’s game was played out in bitter cold on a muddy pitch, this one in beautiful late summer sunshine on a well-grassed surface. Everything was set for some flowing rugby from the Fylde backs.

The Greens pack was competitive from the outset and just edging the tight exchanges.

Fylde’s scrummage was under a little pressure but held up reasonably well. Their backs started to warm to their task and began to run some excellent lines.

An early blood injury for debutant full-back Warren Spragg, a rather nasty cut over the eye, briefly disrupted the backline.

But on 7 minutes a rapid backs move set Oli Brennand free and he raced down the touchline in typical fashion before being scragged into touch.

A couple of minutes later there was a repeat, with Brennand almost getting to the tryline before full-back Christian Georgiou’s last-ditch tackle.

Fylde centre Scott Barrow was asking all kinds of questions of the Greens defence, and in the 11th minute another flashing backs move from 60 metres left Brennand clear.

He had support on his inside and two rapid passes freed centre Chris Briers to touch down. Fly-half Chris Johnson converted.

In the 23rd minute, another spellbinding sequence of running, passing and handling resulted in the visitors extending their lead. Once again the move was down the Fylde left. This time it was scrum-half Ryan de la Harpe who was the beneficiary as he plunged over in the corner. Johnson kicked another lovely conversion to extend his side’s advantage to 14-0.

The Greens looked shellshocked at such trickery and pace. But it didn’t deter them from their primary tactic of bashing away through their hard-edged pack.

They launched a prolonged series of drives at the Fylde line. There was a sequence of scrummages at which Fylde’s pack began to go backwards. Some collapsed and the visitors were penalised. Just when it looked like referee Falla was to award a penalty try to the Greens, Fylde nicked the ball and cleared the danger.

But this was a temporary respite as they gave away a enalty in kickable range on 34 minutes and, after two earlier misses, Georgiou got the Greens on the scoreboard.

Fylde reacted in the best fashion and got into the Wharfedale half before a desperate attempt to kill the ball led to Chris Johnson stroking the penalty between the posts to extend the Fylde lead to 17-3 at the interval.

The warning signs to Fylde were quite apparent, however, and Wharfedale took control of the second half from the kick-off.

Fylde lived off scraps of possession and came under almost intolerable pressure in the scrums.

The Greens’ experienced loosehead prop Chris Steele required extensive treatment by the combined medical staff before struggling to his feet, but he dusted himself off and continued to embarrass the visitors.

In the 42nd minute, Georgiou reduced the deficit with a straightforward penalty and Fylde’s defence became increasing desperate as the Greens pressed forward.

Skipper Evan Stewart was yellow-carded for offside in the 49th minute and from the ensuing penalty Georgiou reduced the deficit further.

When Fylde did get possession they were under so much pressure that they made basic mistakes. Referee Wayne Falla also gave a string of penalties against them.

The Wharfedale backs weren’t terribly impressive and had butchered a few chances when they tried to spread the ball wide.

But in the 66th minute they at last got it right as full-back Georgiou beat some despairing Fylde tackling and sped in from 40m for a fine try. He converted easily and suddenly his side was just one point down.

Georgiou next messed up a straightforward penalty kick and managed to hit the post. Fylde escaped and took the ball downfield.

This time it was their turn to get sympathy for referee Falla, who penalised the Greens. Johnson kicked for the corner and his pack launched a driving maul. The previous week this tactic had earned Fylde three tries to beat a big Esher pack. Not this time ,as they were held up and the inevitable penalty against them sent them back downfield.

The final few minutes were tense and dramatic. A series of driving mauls 10m from the Fylde line seemed certain to lead to a Wharfedale try. However, they survived an a Johnson clearance to touch looked like being the last action.

However, referee Fella allowed a final lineout and this time the pressure was too much.

An eight-man drive inched forward, and despite frantic defensive efforts the inevitable try was claimed by replacement Chris Howick.

This was a very disappointing second-half performance by Fylde, but just like last season Wharfedale deserved their hard-earned victory.

Fylde: Spragg; Royle, C Briers, Barrow, Brennand; Johnson, De La Harpe; Livesey, Roddam, Altham, Arnold, Banks, Vernon, Stewart, S Beaumont. Replacements: Lavelle, Birchall, Taylor, Wallwork, S Briers.