Pythons Hang on Against Champs Wensleydale Securing Promotion
Match Report & Pictures by Julian Tatlow & Si Womersley
Harrogate Pythons had possibly their toughest game in their short history. With a simple win against league champions Wensleydale they would finish the league season in 2nd place and so achieve back to back promotions.
The superb weather certainly bought the crowds to The Jim Saynor Ground, an estimated 450+ witnessed a fantastic game of rugby. Wensleydale kicked off and Jed Carr returns the ball bouncing in the away team’s 22. Max Sharp led his back line in chase, kicked the ball ahead and Sam Considine continued the play with the ball bouncing from his knee. He touches down with everyone but the referee confirming his try after 30 seconds. A knock on is given and Dale clear their lines. Hugh Tatlow secures the line out, to Will Clough, returning from a long injury, who releases evergreen Matt Leach in mid field but Carr’s kick bounces agonisingly long to give Dale a scrum on half way. Under pressure The Pythons conceded a penalty. Dale secure the line out and build phases towards the line. Some determined defence from Jordan Payne and Ed Challis keep Dale around the 22. Offside at the breakdown and Dale kick for goal, 0-3 on 15mins.
The Pythons were quickly back on the offensive. MOM Carr breaks through in midfield, supported by Captain Will Butler who floats a pass to Leach in the clear 10m out but just nudges the ball forward. Dale get the scrum but a massive effort from The Pythons front row gives them a penalty. Clough kicks the goal. 3-3 on 20 minutes. Dale build the phases from the restart but the home defence led by Jon Pickard and Calum Brock force a knock on. Carr punts the ball high and Bailey Bromberg successfully challenges the Dale catcher gaining a penalty. Carr finds the corner, 5m line out Pythons. Clean ball spun wide, Sharp is held 5m out, Pickard recycles the ball to Bromberg and Carr slips a pass to Challis, held up inches short. Brock picks and drives but a high tackle dislodges the ball and earns Dale a yellow card. The Pythons opt for the penalty, clean ball through hands and the final pass from Sharp to James Audsley-Beck in the clear is deliberately knocked on, a second yellow for Dale in as many minutes. Clough kicks the penalty 6-3 on 30 minutes.
With the crowd behind the home team The Pythons are quickly back forcing Dale to throw everything in defence. Frustration leads to a penalty on the 22, Clough makes it 9-3 on 35mins. Dale show why they’re league champions and mount a massive offensive effort. Tatlow and Booth both delivered crushing tackles but Dale continued their drive deep into the home 22. Dale are close to the posts and a concerted final effort leads to a try, 9-10 on 40 mins.
Leach and Challis lead the charge back into Dale territory, turnover ball and Dale clear to midfield on half way, Sharp gathers the ball and is tackled on the half way line, Sam Beagrie’s aggressive counter rucking wins the ball back, Sharp quickly to his feet feeds speedster Considine on half way. Considine out paces the Dale defence and touches down under the posts. With the crowd still roaring Clough adds the extras, 16-10 half time.
Dale play 2 or 3 phases from the kick off and punt into The Pythons 22. Bromberg makes his customary 20m return, the ball is recycled through Clough to Carr who breaks through the defence. With defenders around him and James Audsley-Beck on his shoulder he deftly kicks the ball ahead. Audsley-Beck chases and with some fair challenging his final dive is more determined than the defenders. With inches to spare he touches down, Clough adds the extras, 23-10 on 45 minutes.
Dale come straight back from the kick off Butler and Challis make huge tackles but a penalty is given 10m out. The Dale scrum is solid and their number 8 powers into the corner for the try, 23-15 on 55 minutes.
Dale keep possession from the kick off but some hard defence from Tatlow and Payne restricts their territory. Pressure from Sharp and his back line cause the Dale winger to fumble the ball on half way. Bromberg calmy side foots the ball along the ground, shows patience under pressure from the full back and gathers the ball 30m out. No one could keep up with his pace. He touches down next to the posts, Clough once again 30-15 on 65 minutes.
Dale were straight back from the kick off. Challis and Audsley-Beck held firm in defence but an off side at the breakdown leads to a line out on the home 5m line. A well rehearsed catch and drive and a score in the corner. Dale’s influential 10 kicks the conversion from the touchline, 30-22 on 70 minutes. The tension around the ground was tangible. Dale were back on the offensive again. Possession changed several times, the referee was needed to instruct both captains to remind their players about discipline. But, it was Dale who broke the deadlock. From a penalty at the breakdown a perfectly placed kick leads to a 5m line out with the inevitable result. A textbook catch and drive, try and the conversion bouncing over the cross bar, 30-29 on 82 minutes.
It seemed as if the whole of The Pythons pack hit the catcher from the kick off and under such pressure he was penalised for holding on. The referee called last play, Carr tapped and calmly kicked the ball into touch – the entire crowd erupted. Dave Wheat presented The Whittaker’s Gin Man of the Match award to a thoroughly deserving Jed Carr.
Next Saturday Wensleydale come to The JSG once again for the 2nd round of The Papa Jon’s National Cup.
After the game, Coach Dan Bird said,” This was a landmark day for the club. Saturday was a demonstration of how far this group of players, and club, have come in such a short period of time.” He continued,” The match itself delivered everything we expected it to. There were great try’s, huge tackles with the odd flashpoint. Most importantly, this group of players really stood up when they needed to most and this promotion is nothing short of what they deserve!”
“From the coaching team, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who have been part of the playing group. It takes a great squad of players to achieve the success of this season and without your contributions it wouldn’t have been possible”, he added.