Newbury 21 Wharfedale 17
This was a match that ‘got away’ from Wharfedale’s point of view. Having been 15-10 down at half-time, they dominated the second-half, but only once broke down a superbly resolute – if sometimes desperate – home defence.
In the 73rd minute, with the score at 21-10 (a brace of penalties by Newbury stand-off Mich Burton, against the run of play, seemingly having settled the outcome), Greens’ flanker Latu Maka’afi grabbed a loose ball and surged 40 metres before giving to his skipper Rob Baldwin to touch down by the posts.
Joe Ford, off the bench for the second half, converted. The score heralded a grandstand finish, with the Dalesmen setting up camp inside the home ‘22’. However, a series of scrums under the posts, plus line-outs close to the corner-flag, produced no further reward for the frustrated visitors.
After a quarter-hour of indeterminate play in the first half, Newbury went ahead with Sam Katz’ try, the winger having collected a fine hanging kick from Burton, who then added the conversion.
Burton and Wharfedale centre Mark Bedworth swapped penalties for 10-3, before the Greens equalised the score on 35 minutes. Centre Andy Hodgson inter-passed slickly with winger Dave Hall before touching down wide out. Somewhat perversely, Bedworth (who missed 3 kickable first-half penalty chances) slotted a fine conversion from the touchline with his most difficult shot at the posts.
The half ended with an undeniably ‘soft’ try by Blues centre Nick Scott, who broke through after a snap tap penalty.
Immediately on the restart, Burton cleared his second penalty, and his third success (55) gave his side an 11-point advantage that the Greens just failed to overcome.
Newbury: M Williams; S Katz, M Freeman, N Scott, H Beavan; M Burton, W Gasson; G Fiddler, P Fincken, C McGrath, D Hodge, F Pape, S Witcomb, J Hooper, E Jackson.
Wharfedale: I Dixon (J Ford 46); S Horsfall, A Hodgson, M Bedworth, D Hall (J Tincknell 63); L Gray, D Matthews; T Horner (N Clarke 78), G Hindle, M Chivers (N Dickinson 42), O Renton (R Rhodes 75), A Allen, D Solomi, L Maka’afi, R Baldwin.
Referee: Marcus Caton