Fylde’s victory bid dashed at the death

Briers - red card
Briers - red card
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Wharfedale 24, Fylde 24

A last-minute try and conversion earned Wharfedale a dramatic draw in this gripping National League One contest.

Though the result was probably fair, the visitors were disappointed to be denied victory after playing for an hour with 14 men, full-back Chris Briers having been shown a straight red card.

This was a typical Roses clash between a fierce Wharfedale XV and a more ambitious Fylde side that didn’t have sufficient possession to profit from their penetrative backline.

Fylde had the benefit of a moderate breeze and the famous Threshfield slope in the first half, but they suffered their first setback in the seventh minute, when influential lock Gareth Rawlings limped off with a leg injury.

He was replaced by Paul Arnold, who is to succeed Mark Nelson as head coach next season. It was a bad start for the Rawlings brothers, as within seconds Scott was shown a yellow card for a technical offence.

Despite being a man short, Fylde took the lead as excellent work in the backs by Jordan Dorrington and Warren Spragg set up fly-half Chris Johnson for his seventh try of of the season, which he converted himself.

The scores were level after 16 minutes, when the Greens’ impressive young centre Cameron Hudson finished off a smart try, with fly-half Jamed Guy adding the extras.

The crucial incident occurred in the 20th minute, when an altercation between Briers and home skipper James Doherty resulted in the Fylde player retaliating and being shown a red card by referee Taylorson. It was always going to be a long struggle for the visitors from then on.

Not that Fylde let themselves be cowed by this and they regained the lead on 28 minutes.

Fylde broke from inside their own 22 and Oli Brennand sped away. The winger was caught on halfway line but got his pass away to the fast-supporting Spragg.

The Italian international raced clear for a fine try, Johnson’s goal making it 14-7.

Although the Greens had the majority of possession and territory, Fylde threatened to stretch the home defence, and two minutes later impressive young centre Ralph Dowds went over for his first senior try.

Johnson was receiving treatment at the time, so Scott Rawlings stepped up to add the conversion. And it became 24-7 just before half-time, when the fit-again Johnson kicked a penalty.

Wharfedale stepped up their efforts in the second half, and two minutes in winger Oli Cicognini blasted through the under-strength Fylde defence to score. James Guy kicked the conversion and the deficit had been cut to 10 points.

It was becoming harder for Fylde to launch their backs up the hill and into the breeze.

They were penned in their own half at times and Guy’s penalty on the hour brought Wharfedale within one score at 24-17.

The Fylde defensive effort was gutsy and determined but they were on the ropes as the clock ran down.

They held out until the last minutes, when a drive from a scrum resulted in a touchdown by flanker Jack Barnard.

This time, pressure was on Dale kicker Guy to make the conversion to level the match and he nervelessly did just that.

Nelson said: “We had 15 players on the pitch for only 10 minutes, and I can only pay the utmost compliments to the squad for their fantastic Rorke’s Drift-style rearguard action, especially in the second half.

“It was very disappointing to lose to such a late score after defending so well for so long, but the performance was full of commitment.”