Hebden's Andy Hodge and Pete Reed had to settle for a silver medal after a thrilling final of the men's pairs at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand this morning.

Hodge and Reed were the early race leaders against the reigning world champions Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand.

To be in the lead at 1000m and then again at 1500m was more unprecedented. It became a gladiatorial battle. Two boats isolated from the rest of the field. All the focus was on them.

Could the British duo pull it off? Could they stay with the strongest pair in the world on their home water?

Yes. They stayed, they focussed they held on and held on. Then, agonisingly, just when the British supporters on the bank began to believe it might go their way for the first time in 13 match-ups between these two outstanding crews the New Zealanders found something extra to ease into the lead and take the verdict by three-tenths.

Hodge said: "It's been a great two years with Pete in the pair. There have been small margins and big margins but today was one of the closest.

"It was a really, really good race and I'm just sorry we came out just on the wrong side of it. There have been disappointing silvers along the way but this was a stepping stone silver of which we can be proud.

"Now it will be back to training, pushing ourselves every day against the clock and against ourselves to take it that bit further".

"I take a lot of pride from that", added Reed. "They are an outstanding pair but we are too. I am proud of us. The excitement of the rivalry between the two crews has been massive out here. It has made for a lot of enjoyment".

Hodge and Reed qualified for the final by finishing second in their semi-final to Murray and Bond.

Many people expected the race between the two top crews to be a mere dress-rehearsal for the real thing - the final.

In reality, to the halfway mark at least, both crews locked horns to test whether the pecking order had changed since they last raced, and the New Zealanders won, in Lucerne in July.

Italy set the early pace to which Great Britain responded with New Zealand down but not by much.

In the second quarter of the race, the New Zealanders made a push to draw level with Great Britain and Italy began to drop back. So, the front of the race was left to the two main contenders to trade strokes as the halfway mark approached. At 1000m less than three-tenths of a second separated the two.

That was the signal for a home-crew surge. They moved swiftly out to a half length and then three-quarter length lead before opening up to more than a length at 1700m over the British to win in 6:50.88.

Italy finished a distant third and South Africa were fourth.