Dan Stockdale has revealed Wharfedale may have ‘underestimated’ the strength of National Two North.

Since relegation from National One in 2016, Dale have had to rebuild their side but they are now fighting for survival in the fourth tier of English rugby.

The 28-year-old admits that the Yorkshire outfit have found life tough at this level, but is full of belief that Dale can avoid relegation to North Premier

“We knew when we came down it was going to be tough because we lost a lot of our squad.  We may have underestimated how tough it was going to be,” he said.

“We were maybe a little bit arrogant about how we thought we would approach the league. We certainly were never expecting to bounce straight back up, especially with the rebuilding of the squad we had to do, but we have found it harder than we thought.

“However, since Christmas, we have been a lot happier. Obviously, we are particularly disappointed and frustrated to be in the position we are in.

“We badly underperformed for the first few months of the season. We have turned a corner and that shows because we have competed with some of the best teams in the league recently which in some ways, is even more frustrating because that is where we know we can be rather than where we are.”

Stockdale is right about the upturn in performances in recent weeks for Dale and the hooker has certainly contributed.

Dan Stockdale has been an ever present for Wharfedale over the last few years. Photo Credit: Ro Burridge

He was part of the side that narrowly lost to league leaders Sale FC at the end of March, but he was also involved last weekend when Wharfedale produced arguably their best performance of the season against Hinckley which leaves them three points off safety.

The men from the Avenue ran in seven tries to brush Hinckley aside and it was a display which Stockdale was delighted to see.

Asked ahead of Wharfedale’s clash with Tynedale about their improvement, he said: “Obviously going into the last three games, we looked back on our good recent performances.

“We felt we were unlucky not to come away with anything at all from both of our games against Sale and Sedgley Park.

“We competed well against the top two sides and we were happy with that, but we let ourselves down against South Leicester in between those games. It was almost a blip in how we have been playing.

“We came into last week thinking we need to win our last three games and we treated the Hinckley game as a quarter-final. We knew we had to perform and we finally did! We played how we know we can play.

“We were physical, quick in the backs and our half-backs were on fire. It has given us a bit of confidence now and we have to take that into the next two games and play like we did against Hinckley because if we do that, we know we can beat anybody in this league.”

For Stockdale, Wharfedale is a club close to his heart and close to his family. He has been affiliated with the team since the age of six, but his great grandfather, Joe, was part of the group that established the club while both of his grandfathers as well as his uncle and Dad have played for the Yorkshire side.

With this in mind, it would mean a lot for Stockdale to see his club remain at this level, but with two games to go, their fate is out of their hands.

Rivals Blaydon sit in the final safety spot in National Two North, but Stockdale insists his side cannot worry about what others are doing at such a vital stage in the season.

Stockdale, who made his first team debut back in 2012, added: “We are not focusing on Blaydon. You can only control the things you can control and that is winning our two games.

“Over the last few weeks, we have proved to ourselves that we are sitting at the wrong end of the table. Obviously, we are towards the bottom of the table because we didn’t perform well enough at the start of the year, but our performances of late show we should be higher up the division.

“If we managed to avoid relegation, then that would be fantastic and then we can build again next year. If we don’t, then we will go down a level and we will rebuild from there instead.

“The belief is there that we can win two games. Whether we win two games and Blaydon win two games and we go down anyway, then we can’t do anything about that, but we believe we can pick up two more victories.”