Tynedale 23 Wharfedale 20
Wharfedale to put it mildly have hardly enjoyed the best of fortunes away from home. Only Champions Jersey have managed to topple the Greens at the Avenue in a run of home success stretching back to early November, but in stark contrast they possess the second-poorest away record in the League.
What this in fact rather hides is that certainly three or so of their most complete performances in dominating such high achieving sides as Rosslyn Park and Blackheath and their most crushing win at Coventry were achieved on the road.
Sadly Saturday’s performance was not of this sort as Wharfedale’s League travels for the season ended in disappointing late defeat at a rain-drenched Tynedale Park.
There was promise aplenty at the start. The visitors twice held significant leads at 12-nil after only ten minutes play and again at 20-13 immediately after the break only to be overhauled during the second period by an ultimately more focused home side.
And once they had drawn level the fine game management and excellently directed kicking of home fly-half Joel Hodgson kept the Greens increasingly at bay until his 76th minute penalty produced the killer punch.
Things had started brightly enough for Wharfedale with confident handling and flowing early pressure ending with a penalty to the corner flag, a powerful forward drive and hooker Steve Graham forcing himself over at the posts, with Tom Barrett adding the simple conversion.
Minutes later a rampant and confident Wharfedale were quick to recycle after a scything long Andy Hodgson break and quick hands from James Druce put fellow winger Simon Horsfall over in the corner. Barrett’s touch-line conversion just sailed wide.
But Wharfedale’s penetrative approach play was never matched by precision or decisive control within the home twenty-two and Tynedale countered with first a Hodgson penalty and then after opening out the defence, a well-worked neat inside feed to put winger Alan Rodgers over for a converted try.
But Dan Solomi was hardly likely to mark his 100th League start without a try to celebrate and his short drive from the back of a powerful maul extended the Green advantage and restored his side’s control. This was the irrepressible flanker’s 17th try of the season and the 34th of his League career since joining the Greens.
And even though a further Hodgson penalty pegged them back to 17-13 Wharfedale looked the likelier side at the break.
The second half however increasing belonged to the home side.
That Barrett’s 44th minute penalty was to remain his side’s sole further score was to begin with much to do with Wharfedale’s failure to press home some promising moments of telling position created by a number of penetrating individual breaks. There were runs right through the heat of the home defence by Tincknell, Holland, and Barrett. A fine kick-chase by Horsfall to the flag and a Solomi special tear away – all with the potential for scores. But they were frittered away by poor support or poorer recycled distribution.
Graham, the most forceful and effective Green forward, retired after struggling with injury received in scoring his try allowing the welcome of return of Chris Steel out of action since early December while another long-term absentee James Gough replaced scrum-half Phil Woodhead.
Let off the hook to some extent, Tynedale sensing a chance to end their dismal eight-match losing run grew in confidence. Their play became tighter, their focus keener and their control as precise as the Greens was imprecise.
Hodgson ruled the show with some pin-point targeted kicking that kept his side on the attack and his slick short pass saw Tynedale centre Chris Harris burst through the middle to score under the posts for Hodgson to convert to level at 20-all.
A moment of individual 70-yard counter-attacking brilliance from replacement full-back Lloyd Davies who scythed through the whole side and sprinted to the line only to be cover-tackled out at the flag almost rescued Wharfedale.
With Tynedale now in complete charge Wharfedale defended their line doggedly but the attacking pressure was enough to produce the almost inevitable final penalty that gave the home side a well-deserved victory after their injury-stricken run.
Despite the promise of more, Wharfedale were left with only a losing bonus point to show for an enthusiastic but imprecise display, foregoing the chance to consolidate a solid mid-table position as similarly placed teams around them were more successful on the day.
TYNEDALE: M Outson; H Smales, C Harris, H Mountain, A Rogers; J Hodgson, H Peck; A Harrison, S Ridley, D Dickinson; R miller, G Dunn; R Dunn, G McGuigan, G Irvin
WHARFEDALE: T Davidson (L Davies 40); J Druce, A Hodgson, J Tincknell, S Horsfall; T Barrett, P Woodhead (J Gough 63); N Dickinson (C Steel 55), S Graham (D Stockdale 55), M Tampin; R Brown, R Rhodes; J Holland, S Solomi, R Baldwin (Capt)
REFEREE: Marcus Caton (RFU)