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Wharfedale climb to sixth after narrow but deserved victory
Sedgley Park 16, Wharfedale 18
This SSE National League One match was always going to be a tight call, and so it proved.
Tigers, with three five-point home wins to their credit so far this season, found their powerful play contained by fierce Green defence and were overhauled in a tense last quarter with a 72nd-minute Tom Davidson penalty.
Wharfedale once more showed their powers of resilience and their impressive ability to outlast their opponents and finish the stronger side.
But in contrast to their last two outings, they were able to turn such pressure into match-winning points this time.
Once again their first-half display left them much to do after the break.
Tigers monopolised possession throughout the opening half but, despite pace at half-back and at full back, their reliance on bullocking their way forwards down the middle met with little success other than a driven line-out try by hooker Richard Oxley, who powered over after 20 minutes for fly half Steve Collins to convert.
Wharfedale, whose few moments of isolated fallible handling had resulted in handing possession back to Tigers, decided on a far more direct approach after the break.
From the restart, they drove deep and camped near the home line.
A series of powerful assaults at both scrum and ruck soon produced a try for hooker Steve Graham, driven over by a fired-up Green pack.
Tigers briefly escaped upfield to regain the lead through a Collins penalty but were soon under the cosh once more.
It took replacement flanker Dan Solomi just ten minutes on the field to celebrate his return from pre-season injury with a trademark try, and Davidson’s conversion put the Greens ahead 12-10.
Sedgley were able to capitalise on lock Richard Brown’s yellow-card dismissal for a high tackle to inch back ahead with a further Collins penalty but a brilliantly-executed snap drop goal from the base of a touchline ruck just outside the 22 by scrum half James Gough put the visitors two points clear.
Collins earned his side a brief reprieve with his third penalty but for all No 8 Juan Crous’ powerful ball-carrying out of defence, Tigers could not deny Wharfedale a resumption of the pattern of powerful driving play under the home posts, giving Davidson the final opportunity to clinch a narrow but deserved victory.
Wharfedale have now played five matches out of eight away from home.
And they have won two and drawn one and, as importantly, taken points from all of them.
As a result of yesterday's victory, they rise to sixth in the table, tucked nicely in behind the division's front-runners.