Dale were again their own worst enemies with chances not taken at Warrington. On a flat pitch with almost no wind all early attempts by Warrington to penetrate the visitors’ defence with chip kicks and mazey runs by the their talented backs came to nothing. Well Dale have a few good backs too and with Jimmy Flitcroft back teaming up with Richard West and Dom Serridge coupled with the kicking of Ollie Coldman, the visitors gained ground on a jittery Warrington defence and a good break by giant second row De Sousa, led to a penalty in front of the posts neatly slotted in by Coldman: 3-0.
With Dale in the ascendancy West and Flitcroft ran through the Warrington defenders backed up by the pack and were only stopped when a penalty for offside led to a second kicking chance for Coldman this time on the 22 metre line; another good effort saw the score go to 6-0.
From the re-start Dale took the ball cleanly and were back on the attack. A good passing move saw the ball come to Rob Willetts on the wing who crashed over for a cracking try, again well converted by Coldman 13-0.
Dale had their tails up now and another West attack was only stopped in the Warrington 22 when he was adjudged to have held on too long in the tackle.
A huge kick by the hosts full back saw them with a line out on the Dale 22 and from the line out the visitors were penalized for pulling down in the line and young prop Danny Murphy was given a yellow card. This led to the first of several controversial decisions by the ref. When the Warrington winger Caldwell appeared to have dropped the ball as he went over the line, the touch judge was consulted and the try given 13-5.
For the next five minutes it was all Warrington and a break on the left wing which seemed to include two separate knock ons was allowed to continue and the other fast winger Beesley scored in the corner. Again the conversion was missed by the hapless full back: 13-10.
Despite being offside from the re-start Warrington were still making the most of their one man advantage and kicking over the Dale defence to find Beesley speeding through to score his second try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed again but 15-13 to the home side with 40 minutes gone. Dale bounced back right away and West was all over the Warrington defence backed up by Hodgkinson and Burleigh, Flitcroft and Willetts. The ball came out to the wing and was only stopped by a desperate tackle on the line. Next it was De Sousa’s turn to batter his way up to the line only to be held up. Dale got a scrum on the 22 metre line and were awarded a penalty. This time the kick fell just short leaving the half time score an unlikely 15-13.
The second half saw Dale back in the attacking mode but after a promising run down the left wing Flitcroft was caught on the knee and had to go off.
West was a constant thorn in Warrington’s side and well supported by Duffy and Burleigh he continued to make holes in the home side’s defence and in a well worked move fed Burleigh to score under the posts; an easy conversion for Coldman, 20-15 to Dale. Warrington were soon back on the attack despite having a man yellow carded for a deliberate knock on, and were only stopped on the 10 metre line by Ross Hartley’s solid tackle. They won a line out and from the move again with a chip kick over the defence they ran in a good try with the conversion missed 20-20, game on !
Next came the other two critical calls from the referee. First a good passing move by Dale covered the full length of the Warrington half and saw Willetts appear to go in at the corner only to be flagged foot in touch by the home linesman. Then in a strong attack by Dale a high tackle was spotted by the ref but no yellow card given. Back came Dale and De Sousa seemed to be through near the posts and despite crossing the line failed to ground the ball.
The game ebbed and flowed with both sides pressing but Dale had the edge when Jonny Bradley found himself almost on the line with his winger outside him, dummied and went for a gap only to held up on the line. A big chance had gone. More pressure saw Dale awarded a penalty just outside the Warrington 22 and Coldman took the points 23-20. In this exciting contest it was Warrington’s turn to be awarded a penalty for offside, a change of kicker and the points secured 23-23 with 10 minutes left.
Dale’s last big chance fell to West again. With his tireless running he was targeted by the home side defenders but broke through two tackles but could not release the ball cleanly before being brought down on the 5 metre line.
Warrington had a last attack down the left and won a line out which was taken cleanly and passed out to winger Caldwell who just managed to squeeze in at the corner for a dramatic winning try: 28-23. Dale did have a penalty just inside the Warrington half but Coldman’s brave attempted dropped just short leaving the final score 28-23 to the home side.
This was a really good performance by Dale and many in the clubhouse afterwards said the best team had lost!
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.