Sedgley Park warmed up for this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with second-placed Fylde with a hard-fought 35-31 win at home against Wharfedale in National Two North.

It was as tough as coach Steve Hazzelby anticipated on the day but the victory, coupled with a shock defeat for Fylde against Tynedale, means the league leaders go into Saturday’s first of three successive away games in good heart.

Hazzelby said: “We were at home to old Yorkshire rivals Wharfedale a team who we had narrowly beaten 15-6 at their ground in October and knew this would be a hard, physical encounter against a big, well-drilled team who had recorded a number of good wins against the top teams.

“We were hoping to build on recent sound performances and maintain the unbeaten run and did that.

“But make no mistake this could have gone either way and Wharfedale deserved the credit for the way they played and never gave up.

“We have a very difficult three games coming up, all away, and we know our performances have to be at another level if we are to take the points.

“On Saturday is the big one at Fylde who are second in the league. They surprisingly got beat at Tynedale which has given us a bit of breathing space but that means nothing.

“This will be the game of the season between the top two and we know only the best performance will do.”

Against Wharfedale, the early exchanges were even with both teams looking for territory and possession in each other’s half.

Sedgley scored first with a try for hooker Danny Maher, who dived over after good phases and possession on the Wharfedale line. Steve Collins added the conversion to make it 7-0 in the first seven minutes.

Wharfedale hit back with a their first try after strong, driving play by their forwards and added their second score six minutes later after good hands down the left for their number nine to touch down and give them a 12-7 lead.

A penalty four minutes later gave the hosts a lineout on their five-metre line which they drove over, giving hooker Maher his second try and Collins added the conversion to make it 14-12 going into the last 15 minutes of the half.

A great passage of play down the right by the Tigers outside backs ended with scrum-half Sam Stelmacik touching down under the posts and Collins added his third conversion as the hosts went into half time with a 21-12 lead.

They started the second half well playing down the slope, putting pressure on the Wharfedale defence playing with width and tempo.

Great phases in their 22 saw Collins make a half break, supported by number eight Tom Ailes, who offloaded to centre Oli Glasse and he went over for a fourth and bonus-point try which Collins converted.

Wharfedale responded looking to move the ball wide and hit back with a lovely try after a great line break by their number nine down the right. They added the difficult conversion and were back in the game at 28-19.

A penalty gave the Tigers a lineout on their five-metre line which they drove over to give Maher his hat-trick try and Collins again added the conversion to make it 35-19 going into the last 20 minutes.

However, Wharfedale are a team who play to the end and they came back again with their fourth try after good hands and accurate offloading in Sedgley’s 22.

Then, right on the final whistle, they scored their fifth try which gave them two losing bonus points they thoroughly deserved.