By Colin Whiteley
CRANBROOK RFC 37-12 THANET WANDERERS RUFC
Joe Carlier stepped up to the first XV tighthead berth after an absence of several seasons. He was joined in the front row by hooker Michael Whitehead and there was a debut for Steve Jones at open-side after showing well in the 2s’ opening matches.
Noah Dann played at number 8 and Tom Stevens again played on the right wing, Lewis Downer was due to return after injury in the centre but pulled up in the warm up and was replaced by Cam Pond, meaning only two were on the bench.
It was a cold, grey afternoon in the Weald as Wanderers kicked off on a sticky surface. Thanet contained an early Cranbrook attack well and aided by a penalty were soon in an attacking position themselves. A strong drive, following a line-out, saw Danny Clement emerge from the pile of bodies as the try scorer. Tom Walton’s conversion attempt from wide right was just wide but Wanderers led 5-0. Play was punctuated by too many penalties, against both teams, before Cranbrook showed some nice handling to score a converted try on 17 minutes.
Thanet returned to the attack and Carlier was nearly there after another concerted attack on the home line. Another attack was mounted minutes later and Louis Marshall, who was playing in the centre today, emerged from nowhere to race in and touch down under the posts. Walton added the extras for Wanderers to lead 12-5.
Whitehead took a break with Regan Doody on in his place. Marius Thompson was at full back and his hunt down and tackle of the catcher of his long clearance epitomised the determination Wanderers were playing with. Thanet were however conceding too many penalties and when another was called, on the verge of half-time, they were slow to get into position and the hosts quickly sent the ball along the line before scoring their second try which was unconverted for a 12-12 scoreline at the break.
Marshall had been injured just before half-time and was replaced by Callum Doody. Despite conceding a late score, Wanderers had competed well in the first half but at the first scrum in the second half they were pushed off their own ball. The immediate danger was averted and a good clearance took play to the halfway line but the warning was clear. Walton was shown yellow by referee Josh Methven, after six minutes of the second half for a high tackle. The decision looked borderline but there were no complaints from Thanet’s Head Coach, Mike Pond who described the official’s performance as the best his side had encountered this season.
The resulting penalty rebounded from the post and the danger was cleared. Three minutes later a dominant scrum, from the hosts, drew another penalty and a 15-12 lead for them. Thompson was now withdrawn as Marshall returned and shortly afterwards Walton was back. Cranbrook however had their tails up and in a five minutes spell scored two tries, with one conversion, to open up a 27-12 lead. The testing surface was clearly telling on some of the Wanderers although there was no waning in their spirit and commitment but Cranbrook had found another gear and a further penalty and a good try and conversion meant they had scored 25 unanswered points in the second half to win convincingly by 37-12.
Both Carlier and Jones transferred their good form for the 2s into the first XV and veterans Clement and Letts were, as ever, integral to the team’s battling performance. However, the coaches’ choice as man of the match was Louis Marshall. Not only did he score a try but his effective defence and forceful direct attacks were a constant threat to the opposition before he was slowed by injury.
This week Heathfield and Waldron are the visitors to St Peters Rec. The away game was abandoned when the referee was injured after ten minutes play. The East Sussex side had made a good start to that game and had taken an early lead. They will doubtless hoping to continue their impressive start to this first season after promotion. All support will be welcome and a Christmas lunch is available before the game: contact Kelly to reserve your place. Kick off is at 2pm.