Blaydon 22 Wharfedale 17
The Greens travelled north looking for the much-needed win that has tantalisingly escaped them in their last three games while hosts Blaydon, only marginally above them in the table, were attempting to stem a run of five successive defeats.
But Wharfedale’s woes continue unabated as victory continues to evade them. For the fourth game in succession – and sixth time this in all season – they ended with the meagre compensation of a losing bonus point, falling short yet again by less than a single score.
But this time there could be little complaint. The Greens finished the match strongly forcing the home side to hang on grimly to their narrow lead. But this stout rear-guard action could not disguise the fact that Blaydon overall had been the more commanding side. For the opening two thirds of the match they were the more aggressive, more focused in their play and crucially quicker in their reaction time to ball on the ground.
Predictably enough following last week’s hammering at Cinderford, the home side began at a furious dynamic pace which brought them two early tries as Wharfedale struggled to see anything of the ball.
For quarter of an hour well-directed back play through the centre of the field combined with powerful forward finish near the line engineered two home tries for lock Chris Wearmouth and No 8 Gavin Jones. Wharfedale were struggling to contain the inroads through the middle as Blaydon piled on the pressure with little respite in the shape of attacking possession of their own.
But gradually the furious pace of the home play was burning itself out and the forward exchanges becoming more even. Centre Tom Davidson, restored to the team and to kicking duties, landed a long penalty during the period of flat stalemate that followed, giving the Greens at last a foothold in the game.
But Blaydon added a third try with a bout of renewed energy with the final play of the half when prop Rob Kalbraier finished off a powerful rolling maul in the corner.
Blaydon extended their 15-3 interval lead with an early bonus-point penalty try from successive scrum pressure at the line, converted by Andy Baggett. The game seemed all but over.
But despite their significant nineteen-point lead they were becoming a fading force as Wharfedale came to terms with the home side’s tiring physicality up front. And the final quarter turned into one of continual Green assault, based first on increasingly dominant scrum power and followed by furious mauling pressure as the game shifted from a distinctly physical battle at the breakdown to a test of strength between the two front rows.
It produced two fine close-quarter tries. First from a position set up by Alastair Allen, flanker Dan Solomi dived over beneath a body of players for Davidson to add a fine touch-line conversion. A minute later Solomi broke clear down the tough line but foiled by a final tackle retired to rest his injured ankle.
Then minutes later, after a series of destructive scrums at the line, their softening up work done, props Tom McGee and Neil Dickinson, retired from the fray and it was left to replacement prop Mark Tampin to continue the good work and drive unstoppably over near the posts, with Davidson adding a second conversion.
But despite their pulsating finish Wharfedale, with Andy Hodgson just denied by some excellent last-minute grim home defence, could not add the vital third try that could have earned them the elusive points.
But in truth Wharfedale did exceptionally well to haul themselves back into contention from after an earlier battering which left them 22-3 adrift. It took real stamina and admirable physical muscle to eventually subdue a powerful and massive home pack, with the personal battle between McGee and former Falcons’ prop Mike Ward the highlight of some hard-edged exchanges.
The return of Allen in place of the injured Joe Quinn added the physical presence needed to combat the fine bruising play of the impressive Robert Bell and former Green Gavin Jones in the home back-row. And Tampin and James Holland were effective value for their short time on the field.
Wharfedale’s backs however were never as comfortable, especially in defence, as their opponents whose direct-running game-plan was well set-up by former Greens’ captain Baggett. And without Davidson’s fine goal-kicking – his one unsuccessful penalty soaring above the upright was contentiously ruled wide – there would have been no platform for the final assault.
All of which means Wharfedale remain in the third-from-bottom relegation spot just below next week’s Avenue opponents Barking with the other teams in immediate reach above them stretching further than a single win ahead. And still looking for that ever-more elusive win.
BLAYDON: J Embleton; D Sheldon, C Incledon, G Painter; A Baggett, C Hall; R Kalbriar, M Hall, M Ward; C Wearmouth, P Vinnicombe; B Morris, R Bell, G Jones.
WHARFEDALE: D Hart; S Jordan, A Hodgson (Capt.), S Horsfall; L Gray (T Barrett 63), P Woodhead; T McGee, B Sowrey, N Dickinson (M Tampin 69); A Allen, R Rhodes; A Myers, D Solomi (J Holland 62), R Brown
REFEREE: Wayne Falla (RFU)