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Richmond 34 Wharfedale 24

November 22nd, 2013
This was one of those matches which require repeated reflection if you want to be quite sure what you have seen. At one stage it seemed as if Richmond were going to have a walk in their own park, but in the end Wharfedale emerged with great credit and can look back on what might have been, their starting line-up depleted through other commitments and their finishing line-up depleted though injury. It didn’t start well. Having broken their journey overnight at Watford, Wharfedale chose a route to the ground which took them past Twickenham, where a 70,000 crowd was gathering. Their journey took over an hour more than planned, and the match got under way 15 minutes late; we will never know if the rising tension on the bus had any effect. Richmond, after conceding early territorial advantage, eventually got into the game, taking the lead when reliable full-back Tom Platt kicked a penalty from an infringement at a ruck. Gaining confidence, their back row was rising to the occasion and it was a powerful run by influential number 8 Harison Edwards which ripped open the visitors’ defence for a fine try for James Greenwood, a winger living up to his pre-match billing. One minute later the same winger was intruding in midfield to make a try for centre Will Browne, before once again finishing a try of his own on the half-hour in a fast counter-attack from turnover ball deep in the Richmond half against the fourteen men of Wharfedale, Alastair Allen cooling his heels in the bin. So without having had any territorial advantage, but on the other hand never under any real threat from the Greens, Richmond’s exciting counter-attacking had given them a 20-0 lead and they were now looking forward to a big win on their National One debut. But by this stage Wharfedale had already missed three kicks at goal in the “easy” category (no point in beating about the bush) which if converted would have given the match a different flavour. But by half-time it had all changed: a 34th minute turnover in the Wharfedale half, slick passing to the overlapping winger Christian Georgiou, swift drawing of defenders and a cleverly weighted chip over the top brought him his first try in his new colours. Nor was he finished. On the stroke of half-time he intruded into a move in the Wharfedale midfield, his searing break leaving the defence floundering, and scored under the posts for a try whose conversion was this time unmissable. Suddenly the Greens were back in the game with a half-time score of 20-12. Five minutes into the second half the referee penalised Richmond then marched their argumentative pack back under their very crossbar, but Wharfedale eschewed the gift of three points and elected for a scrum – well, it seemed a good idea at the time - against a pack which was beginning to show its mettle. That attack easily rebuffed, the home scrum’s increasing power brought its reward in the 53rd minute through a catch-and-drive, and another in the 69th minute for centre Tom Gregory, both converted by Platt. By this stage, Pierce Phillips, concussed in the eighth minute of his Wharfedale debut, had departed the ground in an ambulance, and with the clock running down to the end of normal time his side were deprived of the services of Hart (knee) and Druce (shoulder); all replacements having been used, the Greens were now down to 13 men and staring down the barrel. But stand-in captain Chris Steel was having none of it, and driven on by his exhortations the Happy Few scored twice, first though flanker Tyson, also in his league debut, and finally through a penalty try when the outnumbered Greens were illegally stopped when driving a maul over the home line. Phillips thankfully made a very swift recovery from his concussion but a very slow exit from hospital, and the team coach, having waited in the hospital car park for his discharge, eventually made it back to Grassington at 2:45 am, but that’s a story for another day. Wharfedale: Hart (to 74); Taylor (Druce 71), Hodgson, Davies, Georgiou, Gray (Bell 59), Gough; Steel (c), Graham (Howard 74), Howard (Tampin 52), Rhodes, Allen, Tyson, Howick (Phillips 49 then Larkin 57), Brown. Tries: Georgiou (2), Tyson, penalty try. Conversions: Davies, Georgiou.
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