10:19am Monday 20th February 2012
By Charlie Addiman
Rosslyn Park's promotion ambitions in National One look all but over after lost 8-7 at Wharfedale on Saturday - their fourth defeat in a row.
Quite how Park came to lose a match that they dominated in every area - except the rather important one of scoring points – is difficult to say.
The conditions were pretty awful, some parts of the pitch were treacherously muddy and there was a strong end-to-end wind, but even if you clutch at straws and say that the home side are more used to such conditions, then Park had enough possession and territory to have won three matches.
Wharfedale initially played downhill with a strong, bitterly cold and gusting wind at their backs and kicked off deep to Park’s left flank, where failure to field the ball saw Park’s first touch to be throwing in at a defensive lineout.
That was just about the closest Wharfedale got to the Park line for the entire first half. Playing possession rugby, Park worked the ball back uphill and virtually set up camp on the home try-line.
Laurence Ovens and Lorne Ward both nearly managed to bundle over, but the young Wharfedale side defended as if their very lives depended upon it.
A penalty for offside from the five metre line saw Park again surge forward in several waves until finally they conceded a penalty to allow the home side to clear.
Park soon won back the ball and worked it back upfield. A penalty that would normally have been a doddle for Ross Laidlaw had to be spurned given the impossibility of kicking into such a strong wind.
A further penalty was taken as a quick tap, and again the visitors camped on the line. When the way straight ahead was barred they spread the ball wide but eventually knocked on.
Wharfedale tried to make inroads, but when they were awarded a scrum on their own 10 metres a brilliant piece of play by scrum half Graham Barr won the ball for Park, who returned to the attack.
However, as Park broke away the referee spotted a gratuitous piece of illegal action by hooker Dan Richmond, who was unhesitatingly sent to the sin bin.
The home side, a man to the good, made their first real attack and won a penalty on the 22.
Tom Davidson’s kick sailed between the posts and utterly against the run of play the home side were 3-0 ahead on 24 minutes.
Even when short-handed, Park had vastly the better of the play.
They drove on uphill, lost possession through a forward movement, but continued the onward march, driving back into the 22. Another penalty had to be spurned, but the kick to touch saw another encampment on the home line. Surge after surge was met with superb last ditch defence.
After further extra-legal methods were deployed in the resistance, home centre Dan Hart was sent to the sin bin and it was Wharfedale who had to play a man short.
Park remained camped on the line but, when it seemed that irresistible force had finally overcome immovable object, Laurence Ovens’ “try” was correctly disallowed for a double-movement.
Somehow, spirited Wharfedale had held out for 3-0 at half time, but with Park due to have the advantage of the slope and the wind in the second half few would have backed their chances of holding on.
Park began the second half with a useful foray into the home 22 but were stopped by a forward movement.
Forced to play possession rugby, Wharfedale proved to be rather good at it, denying Park anything like the same amount of ball they had enjoyed in the first half and they forced Park to defend well for really the first time.
But Park still looked the only likely winners. A hack-on downhill went dead before it could be dived on. A dangerous looking attack was ended by a knock-on and a dangerous diagonal run by John Rudd ended in a penalty for “crossing”.
Back came Park but frustratingly this time the ball was dropped. Eventually the pressure told.
Park had a penalty close to the line and home replacement Steve Graham was sent to the bin. Park took a tap penalty and eventually Laurence Ovens was driven over to score on 64 minutes. Laidlaw converted to give Park a 7-3 lead.
Wharfedale, now behind and a man short, decided to take the game to Park and, while the visiting defence looked solid, ‘Dale enjoyed a mini-success when they wheeled a Park scrum.
But the wheels fell off for the visitors when replacement prop Darryl Marfo ended a 15 minute cameo performance courtesy of a yellow card.
The home side put extended pressure on a reduced defence – tough tackling Luke Campbell having to be withdrawn to enable Ward to return for scrum safety – and full-back Luke Gray skipped over in the Park left corner. No one could have kicked the conversion, but the Dalesmen again held an unlikely lead with little time left. Park looked devastated.
The task of fashioning a further score was simply too much for Park. They stuck to their task, but this time patience did not pay off.
Park’s supporters were left shaking their heads at how their team could have lost after having so much of the game, and how a team with the wind at their backs and playing downhill could play an entire 40 minutes without once kicking for position. But that is in hindsight.
It may be significant that each of Wharfedale’s scores came when Park had reduced themselves unnecessarily to 14 men, and it should also be recorded that the home side played, particularly in defence, with an almost super-human spirit that did not allow Park to settle for a moment.
Park: Mantella; Parsons, Shabbo (Edwards), Gower, Rudd; Laidlaw; Barr (Edgerley); Ovens, Richmond (Gotting), Ward (Marfo); Lloyd-Jones, Anderson; Trayfoot (Gotting, safety, Lock), Campbell (Ward, safety), McKeen.
Park scorers: Ovens (T), Laidlaw (c)
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