Report by Matthew Hickmott
Thanet Wanderers Colts 12 V Dartfordians 7.
The first round of the Kent league and our Thanet Wanderers Colts travelled to play against Dartfordians. Having not played against them in many a year, they were an unknown quantity that we would soon find out about.
Thanet had a lot of absentees and injuries totalling 25 players unavailable but still managed to have a great squad with 19 players.
Once we had all battled our way through road closures, diversions, train strikes and everything else that could be thrown at us, we made it to our hosts. The weather was sunny and clear and talk of rain prior to kick off did not become an issue.
Captain Max Anderson gave his team talk to the squad. All looked keyed up for the first Kent game of the season and ready to go. Bringing two squads together for this year’s Colts is not always easy but the lads gelled well. They were all asked to give 100 percent effort and desire and the rest would take care of itself as we had huge faith in them.
The game kicked off and Thanet immediately put pressure on to the receiving opposition line, with Finn Hickmott, Isaac Divine, Toby Hunt and Ben Couldridge all making early big hits. Play settled into a little back and forth with Ollie Jordan Smith expressing his great kicking game and starting at full back Ewan Maclean having to collect quite a few balls.
Our front three of the pack Anderson, Couldridge and hooker Fred O’Halloran were setting the tone for some big scrums with Hugo Evans at eight doing a great job of driving them or picking and going when needed. Our wingers Will Mahoney and Alfie Pearce probably did not get to show case their speed and movement but did show a great disciplined defensive side to their game.
Our centre pairing of Harrison Quittenden and Hunt both showed excellent desire to push Wanderers up the field with probing runs and both really took the game to the opposition. Scrum half Owen Jordan was having good success in putting pressure on his opposite number and as asked dictating a lot of our play.
After 25 minutes Thanet were putting more and more pressure on Darts back line with great runs from Vinnie Perkins and Zach Ralph and eventually after great team pressure on the line saw Hunt force himself forward with great determination to score the opener and put us 5-0 up.
A few changes took place due to injuries and tactical moves and saw Joseph Near and Harvey Stocker come on. Stocker having to make some immediate very good decision making on our back line to get playing going again.
Thanet were pushing hard and on the 29th minute after a mix up from the opposition, Jordan-Smith was the most alive to it and took full advantage to pick the ball up and run into score, Quittenden converting it too.
As the half time whistle sounded the score was Wanderers 12 Dartfordians 0. Thanet had been tested by a tough strong forward pack but had shown great fitness and strength to quell them. The backs had shown glimpses of their talents but we hoped for more in the second half.
Into the second half Thanet and Joe Sykes and Reece Davies were introduced.
Joseph Near had to come off as he picked up an injury after getting hit in the unmentionables! Credit to Joe he later came back on after recovering and put in some monster hit to push the opposition back.
Similar to the first half, our wingers had to display their defensive side and Sykes showed brilliant speed and tackle technique from this position. Davies had another good game, again displaying his all action no fear abilities with lots of tackles.
Thanet were limited with their offensive side of their game in the second half, credit to Dartfordians response from being behind. In the 17th minute after an huge defensive effort from the team, Darts finally broke through and got their score which was converted.
With around 10 minutes to go, after the referee had called different players of ours off side on a few occasions, and given the warning, the unfortunate next player was Pearce who received the yellow and we were down to 14 players to hold out for the game.
Dartfordians were camped out deep into the Thanet half and a large portion on our line. Time after time the Thanet lads literally put themselves on the line to hold strong. Even after an attempted kick to clear the lines was charged down, they never let their guard down and eventually after six added minutes, Dartordians broke free and looked to have scored at the end, but Wanderers were going right to the wire and held the ball up and received the final whistle as a gratefully received gift to get the win.
The final score was Thanet Wanderers 12 Dartfordians 7. A hard fought win for the Thanet boys. They had to show great character and determination to ground out the win but showed this in abundance and well deserved the first win in the Kent’s this year. Both sides were a real credit to their clubs, playing hard but fair and respectful rugby.
All 19 players played well, putting their bodies on the line for the team to get the result we had all wanted. Defence was key and with this in mind the first ‘Please Sir’ Man of the match award is a joint one going to our two flankers Isaac Divine and Finley Hickmott. Both had huge games in the forwards, putting in tackle after tackle and winning many rucks. Well done boys.
Thanet Wanderers Gold Under 16s:
Max Anderson (C), Fred O’Halloran, Ben Couldridge, Vinnie Perkins, Finn Hickmott, Isaac Divine, Hugo Evans, Zach Ralph, Ollie Jordan Smith, Toby Hunt, Alfie Pearce, Harrison Quittenden, Joe Sykes, Ewan McClean, Joseph Near, Will Mahoney, Owen Jordan, Reece Davies, Harvey Stocker.