Hartpury College RFC 25-30 Wharfedale
Hartpury College succumbed to Wharfedale on their National One debut after playing 71 minutes with 14 men.
The visitors, seasoned campaigners of English rugby’s third tier having entered their 19th consecutive season at this level, earned a string of early penalties and Tom Davidson opened the scoring on six minutes in front of the posts.
Three minutes later, referee Shane Lewis dismissed Lewis Ludlow on his assistant’s advice for stamping and Chris Howick touched down from the resultant catch-and-drive. Davidson slotted the conversion.
Hartpury grabbed a try back on the quarter-hour mark when Dan Thomas tapped a free-kick quickly and Rob Fuller went over at full stretch, with Gareth Thompson improving.
Thompson then struck a penalty to level the scores before converting brilliantly from the touchline as Alex O’Meara finished off Jaike Carter’s break.
A second penalty from the diminutive fly half extended the hosts’ advantage to 10 points as Hartpury gathered momentum, but Davidson landed a three-pointer of his own from 45 metres with the last kick of the period.
Davidson’s third penalty reduced the deficit to four points shortly after the restart as Hartpury’s discipline faltered again.
Referee Lewis eventually lost patience and sin-binned openside Thomas, and despite withstanding heavy pressure for six minutes with 13 men, Simon Willet eventually burrowed over from close-range to break Hartpury’s resolve.
Davidson converted that and Adam Howard’s similar effort seven minutes later as Wharfedale gave themselves breathing space.
Hartpury were not buried yet, however, and Thomas set up a grandstand finish when he dotted down off a driving maul with five minutes to go.
Thompson’s conversion attempt drifted wide of the uprights to leave the Gloucestershire side needing another try to avoid defeat.
And they almost snatched the most dramatic of wins as Thompson broke and set O’Meara free, only for the referee to correctly call play back for a forward pass.
Hartpury would like to thank Wharfedale for an excellent match and look forward to the return fixture in April.
Hartpury’s next match is the huge local derby against Cinderford at Dockham Road on Saturday 13th September.
Tries: Fuller, O’Meara, Thomas
Conversions: Thompson (2)
Penalties: Thompson (2)
Steph Reynolds; Alex O’Meara, Steve Leonard, Craig Jackson, Jaike Carter; Gareth Thompson, Ben Ellis; Mark Irish, Chris Fortey (c), Tim Brockett; Joe Batley, Rob Fuller; Joe Dancer, Dan Thomas, Lewis Ludlow. Reps: Will Tanner, Wayne Thompson, Luke Stratford, Harry Cochrane, Mitch Burton