A grey late August Saturday afternoon brought a trip to Wetherby Rugby Club for a fixture with a slightly more competitive edge than the current round of pre-season friendlies. This was the second round of the Yorkshire Shield, the visitors being Keighley.
Both teams were beginning their 2016-17 campaign on the back of a successful previous season; Wetherby topping Yorkshire Three and Keighley gaining promotion to Yorkshire One. Even so, a summer break can bring rustiness and perhaps a lack of fitness - this became clear in the opening minutes with errors from both sides. The weather conditions didn't help either as the forecast heavy showers arrived right on time. Heavy rhythms from the nearby Leeds Festival may also have been something of a distraction.
The first forty minutes were extremely close with neither side being able to sustain a longer period of possession or dominance. Although Wetherby were ahead by three points at the break, it was perhaps the visitors who'd spent longer in their opponents half. Sitting beyond the try line which Wetherby were attacking for much of the first half, there was certainly no nearby action to photograph.
This led to a decision to remain at the same end in the second half, with an expectation that Keighley would continue to push forward and close action shots would follow. ickledot would also fulfil an earlier commitment to give equal coverage to both sides. Wrong choice!
Wetherby dominated the second half, scoring several tries, amassing over thirty points. Whether it was down to superior early season fitness or Keighley leaving gaps in defence as they tried to recover is difficult to say but their proverbial wheels most definitely came off.
Not the greatest of afternoons photographically either. Still, these pictures do highlight the picturesque background of Wetherby's pitch. Readers may recall that ickledot's photographed at Wetherby before. Wetherby themselves didn't feature as Harrogate (sorry, link only half works as is from old site) took on Wheatley Hills (again in the cup) during their temporary exile between ground switches. Although it's certainly not your regular rugby background it does reflect the varied environments in which our county's teams play.
So, something for Wetherby to build on as their regular season begins next weekend with a trip to Thornensians. And Keighley? As the saying goes, they can concentrate on the league without a cup distraction now. This game has perhaps been a good 'wake up call'; a signal that there's work to be done before they take on Yarnbury next weekend. You can see more pictures from the game over on Flickr.