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Loughborough Students just make the grade on a hit-and-miss afternoon
Buy this photo » It was a bitter-sweet day for Tom Barrett, who scored all of Wharfedale's 26 points but missed two kickable penalties and a conversion, two of which would have given Wharfedale victory. Picture: Stephen Garnett
Wharfedale 26, Loughborough Students 29
Apart from Rob Baldwin returning to replace Aaron Myers, Wharfedale started this SSE National League One match with the team that faced Fylde.
Loughborough had won their first two games against good opposition and were continuing where they left off last season, when they finished strongly to end up sixth.
Adam Whaites led out the Greens, and they started the better, good running by Baldwin and the backs taking play deep into the students’ 22.
A line-out was won, but the forwards were penalised, and another penalty at the next line-out for taking out the man in the air meant that Dale had moved from the opposition five-metre line to their own ten-metre line with the visitors doing nothing.
At the first scrum, Wharfedale were pushed off the ball and a cross- kick just eluded Loughborough players, bouncing safely into touch.
But Wharfedale had the first chance for points as Loughborough were offside in front of their posts on the 22 but Tom Barrett fired wide.
Adam Whaites and Josh Prell then showed spark in taking the attack to Loughborough but, on the back of several penalty awards, the visitors took the lead with a 35-metre effort from winger Davis Alexander.
From the kick-off, a student mistake gave Dale a line-out in the opposition 22. A good, long ball was taken cleanly and driven by Dale.
Strong running from Chris Steel, Richard Brown and Baldwin led to a Dale penalty, which was converted by Barrett. From the kick-off, strong running by Baldwin and Joe Donkin led to a further Dale penalty, which Barrett landed to give Wharfedale a deserved 6-3 lead.
However, the next five minutes cost Wharfedale the game. One or two players seemed to lose their way and errors were punished by Loughborough.
Poor communication led to a Loughborough line-out in Dale’s 22. Once again Dale had given an attacking platform without Loughborough doing much to deserve it.
A quick line-out had the students running into solid Wharfedale tackling but a good break by ever influential scrum half Henry Taylor, and a slip by covering tackler Phil Woodhead, allowed George Eastwell a score which Davis converted.
From the kick-off, a poor clearance allowed Loughborough’s full back Jack Pons space to run the ball straight down the middle, and he found support, Chris Surman crossing for another converted try to extend the visitors’ lead to 17-6.
Wharfedale came back strongly though, and a drive led to Edward Taylor being yellow-carded, Barrett reducing the deficit to eight points at half-time.
Dale pressed hard again at the start of the second half, winning a scrum against the head, good running by Baldwin being rewarded by another penalty, which Barrett kicked.
More Greens pressure led to Loughborough conceding another penalty and Jacob Albon being sent to the sin bin. Wharfedale soon took advantage and Barrett scored Wharfedale’s lone try to make it 17-17.
The Greens were now playing a brand of rugby that bring the faithful down to The Avenue. The forwards had superb close control and the backs were running well.
From the kick-off, the Dalesmen showed some class. A super clearance from Barrett put Loughborough deep in their own half.
After a bit of thankfully rare ping-pong, Prell attacked well but the move was halted by a knock on. However, the depleted ‘Borough scrum were driven back by the Greens, who were rewarded with a penalty on the ten-metre line, Barrett’s success making it 20-17.
Luke Cole’s sin-binning for foul play prefaced the best move of the game from Loughborough. They swept downfield via strong running, off-loading and support play, replacement Rhys Owen scoring.
Prell again showed his paces before the home defence was stretched enough for prop Akinbiyio Alo to run 15 metres and score a converted try to make it 29-23 to the students.
Man of the match Barrett then missed a penalty 22 metres out from in front of the posts – his third failure of the afternoon on a day when he had kept his team in it with 26 points (try and seven penalties) – but he was successful with seven minutes left to reduce the gap to three points.
Barrett is the leading points scorer in the national leagues with 55.
Wharfedale: Whaites, Taylor, Georgiou, Donkin, Prell, Barrett, Woodhead, Altham, Cole (Yellow Card, 56, Barnard 67), Steele, Brown, Rhodes, Burridge, Baldwin, Barnard (Larkin, 57). Replacements (not used) Margetson, J Mason, Dudman, T Davidson.
Referee: Karl Kirkpatrick
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