By Brandon Reeves
The officials were unfortunately the centre of attention after two key decisions at Lockwood Park left Huddersfield down to 14 men for an hour as Wharfedale came away from the feisty Yorkshire Derby 20-13 winners.
A vocal crowd added an atmosphere to savour, though It was too bad that the match wasn’t 15v15 for the entirety.
Nick Sharpe was shown a red card by man in the middle Tim Allott after the assistant referee judged his tackle on Wharfedale’s Sam Gaudie to be high with force.
Minutes later, as innocuous as Sharpe’s offense was, a more blatant high tackle by Dale’s front row Reece Ward on Mark Pease, which would look more at home inside a boxing ring, was seen to be merely a yellow offense.
While the officials won’t want to see the video again, Wharfedale just about managed to get the win against a Huddersfield that battled tirelessly for 60 minutes but eventually succumbed to a Ralph Wellock winner six minutes from time.
Chris Johnson opened the scores four minutes in with a penalty to nudge ‘Field in the lead, but Dale were lively coming back with a Phil Woodhead try just ten minutes later.
Elliot Hodgson was caught down the right flank scrum half Sam Gaudie and the visitors’ full back Woodhead pounced to get the turnover ball before running from halfway for the score, even throwing a dummy to Chris Johnson en route.
Lefty fly half Jack Blakeney-Edwards notched the first two of his eight points with the boot for the extras.
Then came the moments that mattered. The red first.
Dale’s Gaudie tight to the right touchline outside his 22 dropped a shoulder instead of boxing a kick and went blind before both Nick Sharpe and Alex Battye tackled him into touch.
But Sharpe’s challenge garnered the attention of the Assistant Referee, his head height tackle was deemed to be with force on the diminutive half back. Early shower for the ‘Field forward.
Minutes later, another head-height tackle was given a questionable punishment by the officials.
Field turned the ball over outside their 22 before Dale number 3 Reece Ward took a more visible swipe at Mark Pease who managed to duck the swinging left hook before the whistle went.
After the ensuing melee Ward received a spell in the bin, as did Alex Battye for his exertions in the afters between the sides.
The Nottinghamshire man Mr Allott then had a word with either captain in a bid to not let the game spiral out of control, albeit after the fact.
Chris Johnson missed the chance for three points from just shy of halfway then Blakeney-Edwards’ effort under the posts sent the sides in 7 points apart on the whistle.
Coming out for the second period it seemed to be a galvanised ‘Field with Elliot Hodgson bagging an early try in the corner, his first since returning to Lockwood Park.
After working their way into Dale’s 22, some quick shifting of the ball to the right by Fran Entressengle, Matt Dunn and Chris Johnson invited Mark Pease to send Hodgson into the corner.
Johnson kicked the conversion from a tight angle on the right to level the score.
Blakeney-Edwards and Johnson exchanged 3-point kicks to preserve the ebb of the scoreline, the Dale man first with a penalty six minutes before Johnson’s drop-goal locking the sides at 13-13.
The pattern was very much of attack vs defence for large spells as the 15 looked to eke a win out of the iron-clad Huddersfield defence.
The closest Wharfedale came was being held up 3m from the line as the 14 gave their best to not be overcome.
But the rearguard action couldn’t stay the course with Dale finally finding a way through with six minutes to play.
Through the phases into Field 22, Dale worked it right to Ralph Wellock who simply had more in the engine to break through the grasp of the despairing Guy Borrowdale and in behind for the match-winner.
Blakeney-Edwards finished the scoring with his conversion and Dale saw the game out with relative ease.
Gareth Lewis, although disappointed with result, was proud with how his men dealt with the Red card.
“It’s obviously a disappointing result but credit to Wharfedale and the way they performed.
“Clearly the red card was a crucial moment in the game meaning it was backs to the wall for 65 minutes. However, I’m proud of the way the boys fronted up and we were out on feet in that last ten minutes.
“We’ll patch ourselves up, dust ourselves down and come back stronger for this experience.
While they can still take a point from the defeat, Lewis’ men can also take solace from the hammering that title race rivals Chester got at Hinckley that actually puts Field in second place, five points behind the league leaders Hull who come to Lockwood Park next week.
THE TITLE RACE
HULL IONIANS 59 – 10 South Leicester
HUDDERSFIELD 13 – 20 Wharfedale
Hinckley 35 – 7 CHESTER