By Colin Whiteley
THANET WANDERERS 7 – 23 CHARLTON PARK
For Wanderers, Neil Wakefield returned as hooker to captain the side in the absence of Nick Herbert. Connor Brown was back with a bang at eight, after injury and there was a well earned debut for Tom Stevens on the right wing. Peter Macaulay also stepped up from the 2s to fill the firsts’ 10 shirt during his thirtieth season. It was a poignant afternoon for Peter as the match was preceded by a minute’s silence for his father, Roddy, who sadly died recently. There was no fairy-tale result but the long time Wanderer would have approved of the improved spirit shown by the team.
The visitors kicked off, up the slope, with a light breeze behind them. After twelve minutes Park took the lead from a penalty conceded in front and on the 22. Exchanges were even with Tom Walton, who was in the centre today, tackling hard but his penalty attempt slid past from a kickable position. Thanet’s pack was having the better of the set-pieces and a series of powerful drives took them into the visitors’ red zone but Park defended well and Wanderers failed to cross the line. A good kick from distance put Park 6-0 ahead at the interval.
An early penalty for Park made good ground but any threat was cleared. Andrew Dolan playing at full-back, caught well and his clearance took a nice bounce to reinstate Wanderers in Park’s half. The advantage was moving from one side to the other and a dangerous looking break was halted in its tracks by Steven’s big tackle. Thanet engineered good field position and, with the pack now dominant, were battering away at Park’s line. Penalty followed penalty as scrum after scrum was taken, with the line five metres away, until finally, yellow was shown by today’s referee, Simon Bingham. He shortly afterwards reached for it again after awarding a penalty try that reduced the visitors to thirteen men and gave Wanderers a 7-6 lead eight minutes into the second half.
Louis Marshall was shown yellow, and Warren Riddell-Broomfield and Danny Clement were forced off with knocks to be replaced by Lenny Brown and Mike Whitehead. Minutes later Park regained the lead with a good penalty from near halfway and seven minutes later touched down under the posts to lead 16-7. Marshall returned, but on the other wing, Stevens, hobbled off after an excellent debut to be replaced by Fran Gillespie. Park scored their second try, which was well converted from near the touchline. The visitors pushed hard for a further try but it was Wanderers who nearly claimed a bonus point when, after a fine individual break, Walton couldn’t gather his chip ahead cleanly the final whistle sounded. Park had made the most of their chances and deserved to leave with the points after another good contest between these old rivals.
After the match Head Coach, Mike Pond said: “Despite the result, the coaches were pleased with the effort put in by the whole team. The forwards put in their best performance of the season so far and the back-line performed well with the evergreen Pete Macaulay pulling the strings. As ever, when lady luck has temporarily turned her back on you, the crucial decisions and the bounce of the ball seem to go against you. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, the luck will improve and confidence will continue to build to bring some much needed wins to boost the team further.”
This was back row forward, James Hamilton’s, final game for the club before he returns to his native New Zealand. He has been a first choice since turning up at pre-season last year and enquiring if there any the chance of a game. There most certainly was and Wanderers have been delighted to have the benefit of his services over the past year when he was voted the club’s player of the season. After another fine game in the blue, black and gold, James was the unanimous choice as Thanet’s man of the match against Charlton Park and was presented with some memorabilia of his time with the Thanet club.
Next Saturday 5th November the first XV is away at Folkestone and the 3s are at home to their Folkestone counterparts. Both games will kick off at 2.30 PM
SQUAD: Danny Clement, Neil Wakefield ©, Gully Goodall, Andy Letts,, Jack Startin,, Warren Riddell-Bloomfield, James Hamilton, Connor Brown, Harrison Leach, Peter Macaulay, Louis Marshall, Tom Walton. Lewis Downer, Tom Stevens, Andrew Dolan. Subs: Mike Whitehead, Lenny Brown, Fran Gillespie.