Cup hopes scuttled by Wharfedale
Huddersfield 20 Wharfedale 22
Yorkshire Cup Semi-final
THERE was to be no fairytale ending to Huddersfield’s long season this year as they relinquished their grip on the Yorkshire Cup in a bruising battle with Wharfedale.
But they certainly didn’t let go of it without a fight as they battled back from a 22-13 deficit to almost snatch victory at the death – and but for a drop goal from the visitors’ Andrew Hodgson with seven minutes remaining would have been looking forward to another big finals night.
Most of the rugby in the second half came from Huddersfield as they shrugged off the mantle off underdogs to take the game to their higher-ranking opponents with some lung-busting performances all across the park.
Unlike 12 months ago when Wharfedale were still involved in relegation issues and sent down a second string for the semi-final, this was virtually their first-team squad, and from the outset it was obvious this year’s semi was going to be a vastly different proposition.
The game was barely three minutes old when very quick handling and an eye for a gap saw No10 Will Bell skip through for an easy try by the posts, converted by James Druce, with Huddersfield still to touch the ball.
At that point Huddersfield supporters must have feared the worst as the National League Division I side showed their pace and looked threatening every time they were on the ball, while the reverse applied to Huddersfield as they spilled possession by trying to force passes.
Chris Johnson managed to pull three back with a penalty on the quarter hour mark, and Huddersfield began to see a bit more of the ball, but then suddenly disaster struck.
Young Mike Clark took the ball up at pace down the left wing, but when attempting to get a pass out to his winger Adam Ryder, was left with his head in his hands as winger Druce coolly intercepted and raced half the length of the pitch for Wharfedale’s second try, to which he tacked on his own conversion.
It was a body blow but Huddersfield quickly shrugged it off and a series of forward-led drives by Laurence Sanderson, Lee Brown, Gavin Rhodes, George Hinchliff and Ben Hoyle got the home side up to Wharfedale’s 22.
Skipper Nick Sharpe forced a half-chance, but his attempted back-handed pass went to ground and the move broke down.
However on the next play, the first of a series of melées led to the referee Steve Penfold reversing an earlier decision and giving Johnson a second penalty shot, which he converted to leave his side trailing 14-6 at half-time.
Unfortunately, there was still time for another breakdown in discipline, this time George Hinchliff finding himself in the sin-bin.
But with only an eight-point deficit Huddersfield were still in the game and came out with renewed vigour only to suffer the worst possible start imaginable when, almost from the kick-off, Johnson attempted a clearance kick out of defence and was charged down by Lloyd Davies, who touched down for his side’s third try.
Druce missed the conversion, but 19-6 looked too big a deficit to pull back against this level of opposition, especially when a third Johnson penalty struck a post and bounced to safety.
But driven on by hooker James Davies and a massive performance from tearaway flanker Hoyle, Huddersfield never lost their self-belief and they began to build some pressure on the visitors’ 22.
Chris Duffy came on for Johnson, before Wharfedale looked certain to add to their tally only for Hoyle to pull off a tremendous try-saving tackle, and then a good run down the wing by Ryder was lost due to another interception.
Hinchliff returned to the action, only for Field to be hampered once more, this time losing Sharpe to the sin-bin as Adam Lancaster replaced Tony Stringwell in the front row.
Even with a man shorts Huddersfield were now dictating play and it was no more than they deserved when Ryder finally broke through the defence to grab a try close to the posts which Tom Owen converted.
Sensing the game could slip away from them, Wharfedale surged forward again, and after a missed penalty when Ben Paxman was harshly adjudged to have ‘crossed’ on his way to breaking out of defence, visitors’ centre Hodgson slotted over what turned out to be the crucial drop goal extending their lead to 22-13.
Substitutes Paul Armitage, Elliott Knight, Tara Santer and Tom Andrews were all sent on in a last throw of the dice, and it looked as though it may pay off, when Clark redeemed himself with a powerful run towards the line before off-loading to the hard-working Davies who powered his way over for Huddersfield’s second try.
Andrews quickly stepped up to stroke over the conversion and cut the gap to just two points, but with Huddersfield again on the attack down the left wing as they chased a winning score, they were again pulled up for allegedly ‘crossing’ and, sadly, time ran out of what has overall been an excellent season.
Huddersfield: Owen; Ryder, Clark; B Paxman, Hall; Johnson, Hinchliffe; Sanderson, Davies, Stringwell, Brown, Rhodes, Hinchliff, Hoyle, Sharpe. Subs: Lancaster, Santar, Armitage, Knight, Duffy, Andrews.
Wharfedale: Hart, Druce, Hodgson, L Davies, Crabtree, Bell, Gough, Altham, Graham, Dickinson, R Davies, Rhodes, Mason, Salomi, Baldwin. Subs: Tampin, Steel, Stocdale, Wareing, Mowick, Prell, Woodhead.
Referee: Steve Penfold (Yorkshire).