Narrow Defeat Breaks Pythons Unbeaten Run . . .
Harrogate Pythons 1st XV travelled to Wensleydale to start the new season playing in Yorkshire Counties 2, the highest level they have reached in their short history. Plans were slightly disrupted when captain Will Butler had to pull out due to a knee injury before the game, but the evergreen Russ Robertson stepped up from the 2nd team to take his place. Dale kicked off and the Pythons dominated the early stages with confidence brimming after last season’s promotion. Good pressure from James Audsley-Beck forced a Dale error and Dale were penalised at the resulting scrum. Last season’s leading points scorer Will Clough stepped up but pulled the kick wide of the posts. A Dale scrum was put under pressure and the Pythons were awarded the put in on Dale’s 22. Tim Evans made the break and was hauled down just short of the line. Quick ball and a long, looping Carr pass wide to Harry Parrish who darted over from short range to open the Pythons account. Clough’s conversion from the touchline drifted just wide. 0-5 20 mins.
A probing kick from Carr put Dale under pressure and from the resulting drop out, Evans again caused the home defence problems, and this time Carr kicked wide and a lovely bounce saw Parrish collect and dot down for his second try. Again Clough narrowly missed the extras. 0-10 25 mins. Dale started to up the pressure but met with some stiff Pythons defence, with Ed Challis and Jon Pickard leading the defensive effort. The Dale winger put in a kick which was collected by Evans who set off to run out of defence, but was penalised and yellow carded when judged to have jumped into a tackle. Dale opened their account from under the posts. 3-10 38 mins. From the restart, Clough had seen enough and kicked into touch to leave the half time score Wensleydale 3 Pythons 10.
The second half started with Dale using their numerical advantage and were foiled an early try by a superb cover tackle from Max Sharp. However the Pythons were penalised at the resulting scrum and the Dale No8 took a quick tap and powered his way over from close range. 8-10 46 mins. Dale were now battering the Pythons line and were kept out by determined defence by Clough, Joe Bentham and Liam Kernoghan. A Dale driving maul crossed the Pythons line but was somehow held up over the line. After a series of penalties Dale continually tried to run the ball but met with some heroic Pythons defence. Eventually after another penalty was conceded under the posts, Dale took the kick to take the lead. 11-10 65 mins.
Evans then returned a Dale clearance kick and linked with Parrish who looked to be away but play was brought back for another Dale penalty. Dale went wide and their winger was stopped in the corner, but the referee brought play back for a Dale penalty and awarded John Ward a yellow card. Dale elected to scrum and after a series of pick and drives were eventually awarded the try. The conversion was added. 18-10 74 mins. Dale attacked again and a long pass to their winger was intercepted by Bentham who made 60 meters before being caught. From the central scrum, the Pythons went wide to Parrish who stepped inside the covering tacklers and raced away to score his hat-trick try. The conversion was missed. 18-15 78 mins. Dale then ran the clock down with a series of pick and drives to leave the full time score Wensleydale 18 Pythons 15.
A disappointing result for the Pythons, who lost their long unbeaten run despite outscoring their opponents by three tries to 2.