Wetherby 24-17 Northallerton - Yorkshire Division Three
Northallerton were ten minutes away from the biggest shock of the Yorkshire Division Three season when almost ending Wetherby’s record winning streak on Saturday.
Wetherby were forced to dig deep into their reserves to record a 24-17 win after Northallerton had raced into a 17-point lead early in the second half.
The bonus point victory took Wetherby’s club record winning streak to 43 matches and gave fourth-placed North a losing start to 2016.
Wetherby coach Mike McHugh-Hicks said: “You heard the crowd when we won. It was like we had won a cup, but we hadn’t we had just won a game against Northallerton. They made it into such a big game.
“Because it’s coming up to two unbeaten years now, we have to make little targets. We said that this was our obstacle and we have made it over it.”
North’s dominance in the pack was a major factor in the first 50 minutes as a succession of driving mauls put them firmly in the ascendency.
A sloppy error from Wetherby full-back Conor Sheridan handed North their first opportunity to get a driving maul into motion. And the powerful pack were too much for the hosts with a converted pushover try on five minutes.
Pressure on the Wetherby line continued and North’s second try arrived in similar fashion to the first.
Jedd Bainbridge’s kick found touch expertly in the corner and a catch and drive was forced over – with the ball eventually spotted touching the floor by the referee.
Wetherby’s inability to deal with North’s forward force soon resulted in them losing a man to the sin bin. North took advantage to add a third pushover try in the opening moments of the second half following another excellent Bainbridge controlling kick.
The pressure was now firmly on the league leaders but they responded as champions.
The pendulum swung in Wetherby’s favour when Myles Oates sprinted around seven players to switch the play from left to right and his pass found Will Jefferson to run in on the right flank. Sheridan lashed over a crucial conversion from close to the touchline.
The full-back was involved in the build up to the second try as he burst the Northallerton line from a Nick Oates pass and found Jefferson waiting on his wing again.
Nerves began to jitter amongst both camps with only ten minutes remaining on the clock. Wetherby had all the ball and they carved their leading score through a moment of magic by Myles Oates.
The centre burst through the Northallerton line to score a memorable try, which Sheridan excellently converted to give his side a narrow lead.
North’ attempted to find a scoring chance in the Wetherby half but their hopes ended when Harry Kaye collected the ball on the left wing and sprinted in at the corner for the game’s final score.
Hicks added: “It was the kind of game we had been looking forward to and building up to.
“We knew it was going to be one of the hardest games of the season and it proved to be. We didn’t follow the game plan and were certainly not performing in the first half.
“I pointed out a couple of things. We were not following the game plan and tackling too high. If we stuck to the basics, kept our heads and remained patient throughout the second half, I was confident we would win this game.
“The confidence in the team and confidence in the players came through.”