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Hodgson reaches his century as Wharfedale snatch victory
Redruth 15 Wharfedale 16
It may have lacked the high drama of their last-ditch win two years ago and never remotely approached the emphatic drubbing the Greens handed out on their last visit to the Rec, but Wharfedale’s third successive away victory on what is by far their longest trek south was a satisfying achievement.
After 78 minutes the Greens were staring defeat in the face. They trailed 15-9 and had their captain Rob Baldwin yellow-carded as a potentially kickable penalty was reversed by the referee.
But out of blue came a moment of magic. A stolen line-out ball, a short drive forward and quick release into mid-field and there was the evergreen Andy Hodgson slicing clinically through the defence without a hand being laid on him to touch down under the posts.
Tom Davidson landed the simple conversion and Wharfedale had the narrowest of leads.
It was an advantage they managed to hold on to for what turned out to be an agonising eight-minute finale during which they were repeated penalised as the home side strove desperately to save a game they had largely controlled.
In a truly nail-biting finish, goal-kicking prodigy Aaron Penberthy – who had announced himself with a monstrous early touchline conversion – failed with three attempts at goal and the Reds’ one clear scoring opportunity was snuffed out as full-back Adam Whaites floored flanker Chris Fuca with a powerful tackle under the posts.
The Greens had – somewhat fortunately – survived to savour the jubilation of the final whistle.
And how fitting it was that the decisive winning touch had been supplied by Hodgson. It was the centre’s 100th National League try –an incredible achievement for a player who has suffered three broken legs.
If Wharfedale were left savouring a match they could well have lost, Redruth will rue their moments of fallibility in an encounter that they were determined to win.
This was no tepid early season opener despite an error-strewn first ten minutes.
The home side, especially up front, meant business with a characteristic ferocity in their rugged play which they lacked in the previous two encounters between the sides.
A third successive home defeat to Wharfedale was unthinkable when history, tradition and even fate were surely against any side making such a nonsense of the impregnability of fortress Hellfire Corner.
Redruth opened the scoring when a plundered line-out resulted in some neat midfield handling, which resulted in centre Steve Kenward scoring in the corner.
Penberthy made light of the taxing conversion to give the Reds a seven-point lead.
Davidson almost immediately cut the advantage with a long straight penalty.
The rest of the half was an increasingly tense affair as Wharfe-dale attacked the home line.
Redruth’s resilient defence was a formidable barrier and Wharfedale needed a Davidson penalty cut the deficit to 7-6 at the interval.
Wharfedale were forced into a reshuffle after the break after a wrist injury to Tom Barrett with Davidson moving to fly-half and Chris Malherbe coming in off the wing.
And with bench three-quarter James Druce hospitalised with a finger injury sustained in the warm up, debutant flanker Richard Rhodes was forced to put his sevens experience to good use on the wing.
Penberthy and Davidson ex-changed penalties soon after the break. Then gradually as the half progressed Redruth began to exert more control.
The hosts crowned a period of sustained pressure on the Wharfedale line when from the third close-quarters scrum a drive from No 8 Mark Bright brought them a second try.
One more score from the Reds would probably have seen them home, but Wharfedale’s self-belief and competitiveness kept then in contention to produce the platform for Hodgson’s decisive score.
Reduth: R Kevern; N Simmons, P Thirlby, S Kenward, N Pedley; A Penberthy, M Richards; D Jacques, M Gidlow, P Joyce; D Cook, L Collins; C Fuca, O Hambley, M Bright
Wharfedale: A Whaites; C Malherbe, A Hodgson, T Davidson, P Woodhead; T Barrett (R Rhodes 37), S Cottrell; C Steel (M Chivers 63), S Graham (I Larkin 53), B Hooper; V Taioleti, Of Renton (R Brown 77); D Hughes, D Solomi, R Baldwin (Capt)
Referee: Philip Davies