BLAYDON like going to Wharfedale, and who can blame them? But that was no excuse for handing the Grassington club the win which virtually secured their National One status.
The biggest culprit was fly half Andrew Baggett, a former Wharfedale captain, who was described by the eccentric public address man at half-time as being “in charitable mood”.
In fact, Baggett appeared to be suffering from stage fright.
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He missed two early penalties from almost in front of the posts and some of his passing was no more accurate.
Overall, it was a woeful display from Blaydon after winning six of their previous seven games. They were left badly exposed by the absence of some key men, particularly the centres, and star winger Fraser Wilson never received a pass.
The best centre on view was James Tincknell, who just over a year ago was in a coma in Middlesbrough’s James Cook Hospital following a sixcar pile-up on the A66.
At 22, it seemed a highly promising career, which had taken him to Leeds Carnegie, was over. But he has gone back to his previous club, Wharfedale, and still entertains hopes of Leeds taking him back on.
He scored the bonus point try, finishing off with a theatrical dive, for which he could be forgiven on the grounds that scoring tries must be a joyful act for one who has flirted with oblivion.
The public address man announced that Blaydon had come down from the fog on the Tyne to the “ethereal, imperious, majestic setting of Wharfedale.”
On the other side of the dry stone wall at the bottom end, which is a little close to the try-line for comfort, lambs gambolled, in stark contrast to Blaydon’s leaden-footed efforts.
Rugby won’t often be played in Grassington in a temperature of 17C, but in a dire first half the players seemed unaware that conditions were perfect for a running game.
Blaydon had the edge up front, but when they did try to move the ball, the handling was poor and a dropped pass in the centre allowed Wharfedale to counter-attack and kick a simple penalty after 20 minutes.
Baggett swiftly replied, but just before half-time home fly half Tom Barrett struck from 40 metres for a 6-3 lead.
A half-time presentation by former England centre John Spencer, the club president, to a 25-year sponsor provided more entertainment than any of the first half action.
Ahead of his appearance for Yorkshire Under 20s against Lancashire, Blaydon had promised to take off back row man Ben Morris at half-time.
As he had been one of their better players they left him on for a further ten minutes, but in that time Wharfedale scored two converted tries and there was little sign of the visitors responding.
The first try resulted from a Baggett kick being charged down, then his opposite number dummied through to go under the posts.
The third converted try followed a penalty to the corner, with flanker Dan Solomi burrowing over, and even when Blaydon did get over the line in similar circumstances the try was disallowed because a touch judge had spotted Rob Bell doing something untoward in the maul.
It seemed they might score when centre Gavin Painter seized a loose ball on his 22 and found himself in the clear. He had a five-metre start but was easily caught, which would not have been the case had Wilson been given any opportunity to show his paces. Talent such as his should not be ignored.