By Colin Whiteley
THANET WANDERERS RUFC 21-17 DEAL & BETTESHANGER RFC
Thanet supporters were delighted to see Connor Brown back in the side after his return was delayed by injury during a 2s match in early October. Nick Herbert was out after incurring an ankle injury last week. Marius Thompson replaced him at ten giving a home debut to John Oxley at full-back.
Wanderers kicked off on a murky, chilly afternoon and were soon on the attack. D&B were penalised for not releasing and Thompson gave Wanderers the ideal start for a 3-0 lead after two minutes.
Sadly skipper Sam Taylor then suffered the recurrence of an old injury and was forced off to be replaced by David Lemon. Winger Harry Carter claimed a touchdown but today’s referee, Gareth Edwards, had spotted a knock on in the in-goal grounding. On 14 minutes a D&B clearance bounced kindly, flat-footing the home defence and the touch-down near the posts made the score 3-7. A couple of minutes later a yellow card reduced the visitors to fourteen players but the penalty attempt from distance went wide. Brown caught a clearance and made many metres as he shook off challenges.
Wanderers were dominating possession and a line-out from around 10 metres went to James Green but his touch-down attempt was deemed to be held up. Thanet were not to be denied and Andy Letts’ quick tap penalty opened the door for second row partner Brown to power over. Thompson’ conversion attempt hit the post from wide out but Wanderers led 8-7. Deal reclaimed the lead within the next couple of minutes with a well-struck penalty from distance, only for Thompson to regain the lead for Wanderers with a penalty two minutes later. Thirteen minutes of increasingly fractious added time ended with Wanderers leading 11-10 at half-time.
Early in the second half Thanet were marched back twenty metres for a repeated questioning of the referee’s decision. Two penalties in their favour then set them in a good attacking position at a line-out close to D&Bs goal line. A powerful catch and drive ended with a first senior try for tight-head Harry Clemo to celebrate. Thompson’s superb conversion from near the right touchline extended the lead to 18-10.
Louis Marshall’s charge-down kept Thanet on the attack and Deal were again shown yellow. Thompson’s penalty was good for a 21-10 lead. The visitors attacked strongly and Wanderers’ defence withstood a battering before another D&B yellow card brought a penalty and the opportunity to clear home lines. The respite was short as Brown was now shown yellow and D&B’s forward drive brought a converted try and a 21-17 scoreline. The visitors were on top for much of the remainder of the match and took a scrum instead of the points in an effort to take the lead but again the home line was protected by great defence. Eventually, D&B were penalised for not releasing and the kick to touch was the final action of the match.
This was a battling performance from Thanet where the protection of their lead in the closing stages was particularly pleasing. In another fine all round performance everyone contributed to the result where defence was key. The early absence of Sam Taylor was offset by the performances of his replacement David Lemon and Warren Riddell-Broomfield in the back-row and the No 8 who was Wanderers Man of the match. James Hamilton has missed only one match of the first twelve and that was to watch his beloved All-Blacks in the autumn internationals. His athleticism at the line-out, together plus his positional and defensive nous, did much to bring the match result.
Head Coach Mike Pond praised his squad for bouncing back from only two wins in their first eight matches to win three of their last four to move them up to sixth place in the league. The coaches’ goal was to finish in the top six this season and to be sitting in sixth at the Christmas break is very encouraging.
League rugby restarts for Wanderers on 8th January with a visit to League leaders Gravesend who had a narrow win over Thanet in a downpour on October 2nd.
SQUAD: James Green, Nei Wakefield, Harry Clemo, Connor Brown, Andy Letts, Warren Riddell-Broomfield, Sam Taylor (c), James Hamilton, Callum Doody, Marius Thompson, Louis Marshall, Cameron Beck, Cameron Pond, Harry Carter, John Oxley. SUBS Danny Clement, David Lemon, Tom Walton