By Colin Whiteley
THANET WANDERERS RUFC 12 – 12 DARTFORDIANS RFC
Thanet’s starting fifteen showed three changes from that which won at Ashford last Saturday. In the pack Jack Startin returned to the second row and Warren Riddell-Broomfield was back at Blindside. Nick Herbert made only his sixth start of the season, at inside centre, in an otherwise unchanged backs line up.
Access to St Peters Rec had been difficult due to a tree blocking Bairds Hill. Prior to kick off, both teams lined-up for a minute’s applause in memory of Jack Jeffrey. Jack was in the act of scoring a try for his club, Evesham RFC, last Saturday when he sustained a fatal injury in an accident. His shirt number 11 was also retired for this fixture.
There was a very strong cold wind at the backs of Wanderers as they kicked off up the slope and heavy rain was soon playing a part too. From the kick-off, Thanet were encamped deep in the visitors’ half and two penalties kept the pressure on.
Callum Doody, playing on the right wing, escaped down the narrow side of a scrum and went over for a try after just three minutes. Tom Walton’s conversion from wide right was well judged and Wanderers had the boost of an early 7-0 lead.
On fifteen minutes, Jacob Payne’s good tackle brought a penalty and the visitors were marched back another ten minutes by referee Lewis Franks for dissent. Charlie Knight saw an opening and stepped around defenders before powering through the Dartfordians last line of defenders to touch down. Walton’s conversion attempt rebounded off the post but Wanderers led 12-0.
Five minutes later Walton’s attempt to take three points following a penalty went just left of the posts. Dartfordians had now adjusted to playing against the wind which earlier had returned the ball to behind the kicker A forwards tussle resulted in Wanderers hooker Neil Wakefield being shown a yellow card. Jay Sanford came off the bench to hook as Thanet also withdrew Riddell-Bloomfield. Half-time followed seven minutes later after a well contested first half with a big second half required from the Thanet side against the wind.
Three minutes into the second period, Wanderers touched down in their own goal area necessitating a drop out. The ball flew off its intended path and without making much ground, in the face of the gale, for Darts to catch and run in their first try. The kicker judged the wind well to add the extras.
The visiting pack was heavier than Thanet’s and contained some useful big ball players whilst their back line bristled with players of attacking intent who had already given the home defence a hard work out. There’s great credit for the Wanderers that they withstood wave after wave of attacks from the Darts for the next twenty five minutes before a second try was scored, that was not converted, setting up a nail-biting last quarter of an hour with the scores level 12-12. Opportunities were few for either side in those remaining minutes and Thanet’s Head Coach, Mike Pond, thought a draw to be a fair result from a game that delivered much more exciting quality than seemed possible at kick-off. Anyone from Thanet’s squad today was a candidate for the man of the match award but Wanderers young tight-head, Harry Clemo, gave a performance packed with strong carries and chop tackles that stopped many attacks at source and he was the coaches’ choice.
Wanderers do not have a league match next Saturday (February 26) although the Vets will be in action at Ashford in the semi-final of the Veterans Kent Bowl Competition. Kick Off 2PM. The first XV return to league action on March 5 away against Beccehamian. Kick Off 3PM.