Up hill task proves too steep for Park as Wharfdale take the points
Rosslyn Park were knocked off their perch at the top of National League One by a fired-up Wharfedale side, going down 33-24.
The match could have gone either way in the last ten minutes, but Park can have no complaints as to the final result.
From the kick off, Park, playing down the Threshfields slope, were almost immediately penalised. A good long penalty up their right flank saw Wharfedale gain a throw well into the Park 22.
They spread the ball across to the other wing and set up a drive that saw prop Joe Althan go over, and winger Lloyd Davies added a conversion for 7-0 with barely two minutes on the clock.
Almost from kick off, Wharfedale were back in overdrive and had the league leaders well onto the back-foot, and eventually they gained a penalty in front of the posts, some 30 metres out, and Davies stepped up to make it 10-0 on six minutes.
This was a torrid time for Park, whose poor kick off was immediately run back at them. This time, Park’s defence held firm, and it was the home side who were penalised, the kick putting Park into the 22 for the first time.
Attacking pressure brought a further penalty and Sam Katz put his team on the scoreboard for the first time at 3-10 on 13 minutes.
Signs that Park were settling in looked premature when they almost gifted a breakaway try, courtesy of a poor pass, but the would-be scorer knocked on in making the interception.
The visitors were now exerting a measure of control up front. A penalty to the corner saw a storming break through by flanker Harry Rowlands, almost to the line.
Only illegal action stopped the score, and Park opted to scrummage rather than take the penalty. Wharfedale slithered back over their line under immense pressure and Hugo Ellis touched down at the rear of the scrum.
Katz added the conversion – a superb effort from out wide in terrible underfoot conditions - for 10-10. Wharfedale flanker Dominic Barrow was sent to the sin bin for his role in matters.
Park now looked firmly in control. A break was stopped by a high tackle which, to relief of the home fans, the referee correctly judged not to be violent.
The penalty saw Park back into the 22. Nev Edwards nearly got to the line, then Katz sold an outrageous dummy to do the same. A penalty was kicked to touch, but for once the line-out let them down.
Park resumed attacking for the final five minutes of the half and drove over the line, only to be ruled to have been held up.
Under unbearable pressure Wharfedale conceded a penalty. Park opted for the scrum once more and eventually drove over with Darrell Ball claiming the try. Katz converted for a half-time lead of 17-10.
A seven-point margin, playing uphill in the second period may have looked a bit tenuous, but having survived a nightmare start Park had pulled themselves back into a game they were now controlling and which looked distinctly winnable.
They were by now having the lion’s share of attacking, though their own mistakes regularly stopped them just short of the 22 and they generally failed to get the ball as far as their two dangerous wingers, Edwards and Charles Broughton.
Wharfedale had their own ideas. Another marauding start caught Park on the back foot. Penalised twice in quick succession as the home side went for the line, eventually flanker Dan Solomi burst over. The conversion was missed, but with only five minutes of the second period gone the lead was a slender two points.
Worse was soon to come when a poor clearance found winger Davies, whose angled run reached the heart of the defence, scrum half James Gough taking the ball on to a position almost under the posts.
The move was stopped illegally and Ellis was the man dispatched to the bin for a team foul. Davies added a simple penalty for an 18-17 lead.
In deep trouble, Park were penalised trying to run the ball out of defence and the home side quickly worked the ball across to the right for Davies to touch down, converting his own effort for 25-17 with less than 20 minutes left.
Park tried desperately to get back into it - when a promising move was stopped for a pass harshly judged to be forward, they were penalised for arguing and marched back 10 metres.
It was going against them, and when their clearance kick was charged down and quickly worked across for left winger Nick Taylor to score on 68 minutes for 30-17 it looked game over.
The visitors rallied, though, and looked to have scored up the left but were again adjudged to have been held up.
They held the Wharfedale try-line under siege until Katz found a way over under the posts and converted it himself to give the visitors three minutes to score the converted try that would bring a win.
Instead they conceded a penalty, and when Davies’ long range effort bisected the posts even Park’s losing bonus point had disappeared. That was cruel.