Saturday 19 August - Wharfedale v Hull Ionians (A) KO 3.00pm ----

Blaydon 36 Wharfedale 31

November 22nd, 2013
If before the game Wharfedale, after three fruitless matches, had been offered these two precious bonus points against the side lying second in the division, they would surely have taken them. The gap above the relegation zone has now stretched to fourteen points. In the end, however, it took a performance of courage and determination, described by coach Tom McGee as one of the finest he has seen from the side this season, to come back repeatedly from a first-half pounding at the hands of the powerful home pack: twice they were held up over the Wharfedale line, and they repeatedly turned down kickable penalties to go for their trademark catch-and-drive, only to meet with impressive Green defence, resolute even when twice reduced to fourteen men. Blaydon are having by far the best season in their history, lying in second place with fifteen wins already under their belt. Perhaps Wharfedale have not seen them at their best, because the Greens have twice run them very close, taking four points from the two matches. But Blaydon on this occasion seemed rather one-dimensional, their backs unable to take advantage of their forward power. Indeed, by the third quarter all the rugby was coming from Wharfedale, holes in the home defence opened by flowing moves begun by fine breaks from Tampin, Woodhead and Donkin, and if Lloyd Davies had not been illegally blocked as he chipped ahead when in the open, his speed might well have produced a try; the referee decided that no yellow card was justified, one of the decisions which he may regret in the small hours. The sparse home crowd must have been rubbing their eyes to see the half-time scoreboard read only 12-10. That Wharfedale got on the board at all was due to a lung-bursting 75-yard interception from Tom Barrett, then a penalty on the stroke of half-time. Not only did that come during Wharfedale’s single period of pressure near the Blaydon line, but it was the first penalty they had been awarded in the match; that Blaydon had been by that stage been awarded eight was a fair reflection of how the game had gone. Thirteen minutes into the second half Blaydon seemed to be out of sight with two more tries, the second one a penalty try awarded when both packs seemed to slip in the muddy conditions, to make the score 26-10. If two first-half yellow cards had given the Greens an uphill task, those were merely the hors d’oeuvre: Adam Howard’s first-half yellow card for a high tackle seemed harsh, but there was no excuse for the red mist which caused him to retaliate so enthusiastically when punched, and his straight red will give him time for reflection. The ensuing penalty led to Blaydon’s favourite catch-and-drive and another try for a 36-24 lead, but by this stage Wharfedale had themselves built up a head of steam with two drives of their own, credit for the finish going to stand-in captain Steve Graham, enjoying his most influential season. Still Wharfedale refused to lie down. Their fourteen men gave the home side a torrid final ten minutes, and really should have been awarded a penalty try when Blaydon were penalised for dropping a charging maul on its way to the line. As it was, the referee eventually produced two late yellow cards for desperate technical offences to reduce the home side to thirteen men, and the Greens were able at last to drive Tom Wareing over the line for a precious fourth try, the second bonus point coming from Barrett’s faultless boot. In conditions which were made for the home side’s forward strength, the foundation for Wharfedale’s comeback was their own pack, led from the front by Graham. Behind the scrum, the visiting backs were a constant threat, with Woodhead back to his quicksilver best, while his half-back partner Barrett had a fine match, adding four conversions and a penalty to his first-half try. The management will feel that there is still much room for improvement. Apart from the act of egregious indiscipline, two unforced errors cost ground and led to tries: one came early when caught in possession near the line, the other when a speculative Blaydon clearing punt was knocked on with no opposition within hailing distance. But with injured players gradually returning to the reckoning the selectors may soon for the first time in many months have the luxury of choice. Wharfedale: Whaites (Gough 64); Davies, Donkin, Gray, Taylor; Barrett, Woodhead; Howard, Graham (Larkin 70), Tampin, Brown, Rhodes, Mason (Wareing 57), Solomi, Allen. Replacement not used: Stockdale. Tries: Barrett, Graham (2), Wareing. Conversions: Barrett (4). Penalty: Barrett. Blaydon: Bailey; Painter (Incledon, 17), Banks, Hanks, Jeffrey; Baggett, Charlton (Pasquali-Herrera, 29); Kalbraier (Hallam, 40), Hall, Ward (Kalbraier, 61), Wearmouth, English, Laughlin (Henderson, 70), Hamilton, Smithson. Tries: Baggett, Smithson, Pasquali-Herrera, penalty try, Banks, Wearmouth. Conversions: Baggett (2) Referee: Mr Philip Davies
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