Wharfedale 28 Blaydon 32

November 22nd, 2013
The Avenue has certainly been proving a difficult venue for visitors this season, and an exciting one, every game going down to the wire with Wharfedale hitherto coming out on top. For Blaydon it has hardly been a past happy hunting ground leaving them with only one victory in five attempts. But on Saturday, despite needing to repel a last minute siege a man down, Blaydon emerged richly deserving winners of a game they dominated with the more incisive running and greater defensive impact. While they kept fifteen men on the pitch they were largely in charge and Wharfedale were able to display the forward dominance they have shown all season only in patches. True, Wharfedale again finished strongly on top pressing the visitors’ line and all but snatching the game from the fire. And their two bonus points were worthily earned; but for the second time in a fortnight the Greens learnt that giving a side twenty points start inside the first quarter requires a great deal of catch-up and that partial rescue acts are not quite a substitute for laying down a platform for constructing a victory. Wharfedale opened confidently to claim an early close-driven try by James Tyson converted by Tom Davidson after a series of powerful surges near the line.  But this bright start was soon eclipsed by three tries from the visitors who exploited the Greens’ tendency to play too much rugby under their own posts. Blaydon were eager to attack through the hands with some neat though rather obvious lines of running with forwards adroit enough at the recycle to provide a useful supply of possession. But the Greens brought pressure on themselves within their twenty-two. First powerful towering winger Tom Jeffrey scored direct from a blindside run when Wharfedale conceded a scrum, leaving the back-row defence for dead. Then seven minutes later he followed up a home dropped ball as the Greens attempted to run out of defence to race clear down the touchline to score a second time. Then centre Charles Incledon swiftly added a third after picking up turn over ball from the side of an unattended ruck. When flanker Morris added a bonus point fourth try from a driven-scrum near the line Blaydon were running away at 25-7. And their lead would have been healthier still had not former Green captain Andy Baggett hammered the upright with three successive conversions. Wharfedale looked a much healthier proposition while challenging for the ball going forward where their pressure was setting the visitors some problems. And they were at last able to make a desperately needed scoring impact in capitalising  of overlapping yellow cards to live-wire scrum-half Hall Charlton and flanker Gavin Jones either side of half-time to score two converted tries. First, Davidson put a short scampering finish to a series of forward assaults near the line and converted his try to limit the visitors’ lead to 25-12 at the break.  Then straight from the re-start kick off fly-half Luke Gray collected a kick ahead out of defence to race clear to close the gap to 25-21 as Blaydon’s lead was frittered away. It was now the visitors’ turn to defend as the assurance of their first half play deserted them. But just as Wharfedale as last were able to assert themselves they were dispossessed over their line at the back of a defensive scrum for bustling forceful No8 Jason Smithson to wrestle the ball to the ground to restore a two-score lead with full-back Gavin Painter landing the conversion. Wharfedale piled on the pressure back down the field. Exploiting a further yellow card to hooker Matthew Hall, Wharfedale hammered at the Blaydon line scoring once through Steve Graham from a powerful line-out drive, but despite their consistent late pressure they were unable to repeat the feat in the final minute that would have given them victory with Blaydon finally escaping up field out of harm’s way. But Wharfedale will be largely happy with their performance so far this season and will happily settle for twenty points at this stage given the quality of the opposition faced so far. They are a powerful side up front as they showed once again against a notably strong Blaydon pack. They are scoring tries with four bonus points in seven games. And there is air of confidence in each others’ performance.  And players about to return from injury are waiting in the wings. Wharfedale are eighth in table – one of six teams squashed together within two points of each other. That’s how tight things are and are likely to stay this season in this ultra-competitive division. The Greens cannot afford the partial profligacy of the opening quarter of the past few weeks. WHARFEDALE: T Davidson (L Davies 62); N Taylor, J Donkin, A Hodgson, S Horsfall; L Gray, J Gough (P Woodhead 49); C Steel (Capt), I Larkin (S Graham 47), A Mason (A Howard 47); R Brown, R Rhodes; A Allen, J Tyson, A Myers BLAYDON: G Painter; F Wilson, C Incledon, T Banks, T Jeffery; A Baggett, H Charlton; R Kalbraier, M Hall, M Ward; C Wearmouth, S English; G Jones, B Morris, J Simpson REFEREE: Philip Davies (RFU) SCORERS:   Tries: Tyson, Davidson, Gray, Graham Con:   Davidson 3, Davies  
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