By Colin Whiteley
THANET WANDERERS 0 – 18 HEATHFIELD & WALDRON RFC
.Hooker Neil Wakefield and Mike Morris returned to Thanet’s front-row whilst loose-head prop Danny Clement found himself at inside centre this game. Henry Mirams was back on one wing with, scrum-half by choice, Harrison Leach, on the other.
Thanet’s sunshine had loosened the frost sufficiently for the game to go ahead and become the only fixture played in Counties League Kent One on December 10.
Wanderers kicked off down the slope into the bright sunshine which made high balls testing. Tom Walton’s early penalty attempt, from distance, carried but was just wide. Joe Carlier was shown an early yellow and on ten minutes Heathfield opened the scoring with a penalty but there was little pattern to either side’s play as errors and penalties punctuated the exchanges.
Finally, on 25 minutes, the visitors crossed halfway between the touchline and the posts and the conversion opened a ten point lead. Thanet’s full-back, Marius Thompson, showed good opportunism, to take Wanderers to ten metres out but the opportunity was then lost by a knock-on. Wanderers were contesting well but over-urgency was proving costly with retaining possession. Thompson’s tackle prevented a likely try and Nick Herbert’s good clearance took Wanderers to thirty metres out. Open-side, Steve Jones, in his second first XV game, made a nice half-break and Walton was constantly sniping as he sought an opening but the visitors’ defence was sound and they closed the half with a further penalty to lead 13-0.
Mike Whitehead gave Joe Carlier a break as he joined from the bench for the second-half and there was some confidence in the home camp that the deficit could be overcome. However, after Wanderers had repelled one wave of attacks from the visitors, a second onslaught eight minutes into the half saw their forwards drive over, wide left, for an unconverted try and an 18-0 lead. A Thanet attack was penalised with the line close but another forward drive again took them close before a knock on was called.
Cam Pond now took a break with Tom Stevens joining a reorganised back line and shortly afterwards Regan Doody joined from the bench with Jones going off. Warren Riddell-Bloomfield popped up with a big tackle to halt a visitors’ dangerous attack and the home pack took up residence in Heathfield’s 22. Wakefield drove for the line from a penalty and many more followed as Heathfield protected their line but on this occasion there was no card from today’s referee, Mr Gareth Edwards.
As Wanderers went for the line, an ailing Andy Letts and fellow lock Jack Startin were excellent in a formidable effort from the pack. However, after fifteen minutes of intense pressure from Thanet’s pack and some outstanding defence from the visitors, the siege was lifted when a penalty was signalled and Heathfield cleared to thirty metres. With three minutes of regular time remaining, Heathfield were penalised and were marched back ten metres with the offender being shown yellow, Thanet were unable to benefit from the advantage in the minutes left and the final score remained 18-0 to the visitors.
Wanderers gave a spirited performance, particularly in the second-half, but will be concerned that no points resulted from their efforts and their points difference in the league table is the worst of all of the clubs and their points scored, 123, is 63 short of the next lowest. There were good individual performances with Noah Dann progressing quickly at No 8 and Neil Wakefield’s accuracy at the line-out and leadership in the pack was particularly valuable. However, today’s man of the match was, stand-in skipper Nick Herbert.
Playing at ten, he set a good example by tackling well above his weight and distributing accurately and making many metres. He will be aiming to help turn around the club’s fortunes when they make the short trip to Deal next Saturday. Kick Off 2.00 PM. Please support the boys as they hope to record the double over their old rivals in this local derby.
SQUAD: Mike Morris, Neil Wakefield, Joe Carlier, Andy Letts, Jack Startin, Warren Riddell-Bloomfield, Steve Jones, Noah Dann, Tom Walton, Nick Herbert (C ), Harrison Leach, Danny Clement, Cam Pond, Henry Mirams, Marius Thompson. REPLACEMENTS: Mike Whitehead, Regan Doody, Tom Stevens.