Been wanting to watch Wharfedale for a long time now. ickledot photographed there in November last year but that was a trial match involving Yorkshire Under 20s. They were playing a Wharfedale XV then but not the first team. The impetus to go finally was provided by the need to deliver a print from last week's game at Otley, the visitors for yesterday's fixture (BTW, you looking for a last minute stocking filler? Why not buy a photo of your man or woman playing rugby? They'll really appreciate it - digital download from the ickledot shop or contact ickledot by email).
As in previous recent posts but much more so, there was a host of former Yorkshire Under 20s on display. Dec Dunn was playing for Otley and his team mates from the successful 2014-15 County Championship Final, Josh Burridge (captain on that day and yesterday), George Hedgley (winning captain the following year) and Robbie Davidson were in the Wharfedale squad.
ickledot was able to grab a pre-match word with Robbie in the clubhouse. While ickledot tucked into a sausage sandwich (real sausage BTW, definitely not one of your cheaper supermarket variety) and Robbie enjoyed a pork pie (hope that doesn't get him into bother with the club nutritionist), the range of subjects discussed included local rugby, the welfare of his former Yorkshire team mates, student debt and match preparation. Little did we know then that he was to play a crucial role in the game to follow. Other former Yorkshire Under 20s alumni in the Wharfedale squad included Tom Davidson (BI - before ickledot), Jamie Guy (2013-14) and Sam Gaudie (2015-16, unfortunately injured at present). Apologies if anyone's been missed.
You can read a good summary of the match on Wharfedale's website with the promise of a full report to follow. Briefly, Otley had the better of the first forty minutes with a couple of tries. This was going with form as Otley are higher in the league while Wharfedale have struggled since being relegated last season. However, the form book is no crystal ball and the home side were able to stay in touch with a converted try and a penalty. Unfortunately from a photographic point of view the first half was something of a disaster for ickledot. This really came out of that previously discussed dilemma when trying to feature both teams in a single game: which end to sit at? The referee was kind enough to let ickledot know which way the teams would play around twenty minutes before kick off. In making the decision to photograph Wharfedale first and Otley in the second, ickledot took account of the low Winter sun shining from the higher end of Wharfedale's picturesque Dales ground, the one which Wharfedale would attack first. The plan was to stay towards that end throughout so both sides would have a half being photographed playing towards the ever decreasing light.
With Otley leading at the break it made sense to stick with the plan and stay at the 'lighter' end. Otley's higher league position was further evidence that they'd close out the game. Even if they ultimately lost, surely they'd enjoy some offensive possession? No! Inexplicably they offered little in the way of attack in the second forty, spending most of it besieged in their own half. Of course, much of this was down to the determination of Wharfedale, supported by a sizeable and vociferous crowd.
Wharfedale's pork pies must have immense nutritional qualities for it was Robbie Davidson who touched down not once but twice in order to secure a famous and well deserved victory. His second was particularly dramatic as he latched on to a loose ball and dived over down the right. And ickledot was nowhere near! The final score in this epic encounter was 27-17 to Wharfedale. Well done to them.
A great game but most definitely not from a photographic point of view. You won't be buying any pictures from this game. In last week's Otley-Harrogate encounter ickledot got away with it but not on this occasion. The pictures above are the best of a bad bunch - scenes from the game rather than moments of high drama. You can see a few more from the game over on Flickr.
Perhaps an early resolution for the new year is not to try and feature both teams in a single game. And ickledot will definitely return to Wharfedale soon and concentrate on them for the full eighty minutes!