By Colin Whiteley
DEAL & BETTESHANGER LION RFC 16 – 21 THANET WANDERERS RUFC
Danny Clement returned to the front row after his away day in the centre and Gully Goodall was at tighthead. There was a new line-up in the centre with Louis Marshall partnering with the returning Charlie Knight. Callum Doody returned on the left wing and Drew Dolan came back at full-back to replace the injured Marius Thompson.
A good number of Thanet supporters had made the short trip to the Drill Field at Deal where the sunshine had helped the frost to leave the pitch.
There was a welcome urgency to Thanet’s play in the lively opening minutes. No one was more eager for the fray than Louis Marshall and his early break set good field position. Tom Walton’s big tackle also reflected the team’s mood as he drove a much larger opponent back. Most of the play continued to be played in Deal’s 22 and on eight minutes Walton appeared to have opened the scoring but was called back for crossing. Wanderers were not to be denied for long and two minutes later an alert Charlie Knight broke from his own half and drew the defence well before passing inside to Walton who raced in under the posts and his conversion gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Gully Goodall was relishing the contest and his powerful carry put Thanet back on the attack. Henry Mirams cleared well under pressure but when Wanderers went offside just inside their own half the Lions’ Connor Moss nailed the three points. A Deal penalty to around 5 metres from Thanet’s line maintained the hosts’ pressure but Wanderers responded well before Marshall broke out before handing on to Dolan who took play to Deal’s ten-metre line before being brought down.
On thirty minutes more good handling put Thanet in an attacking position and a powerful drive from the Wanderers pack ended with lock forward Jack Startin claiming the try which was converted by Walton for a 14-3 lead. Back came the Lions and a penalty led to a line-out 15 metres out but a poor throw gave Thanet the chance to clear but touch was not reached. More scrappy play persisted into added time. Callum Doody’s powerful tackle defused a dangerous attack before the Referee, Simon Bingham, sent Thanet’s scrum general, Neil Wakefield, to the sin bin. The ten minutes of added time ended when a Deal attack was held up and Thanet went into the break with their 11-point lead maintained.
Wanderers made a good start to the second half with Walton surging from his own half before being caught. Startin was then adamant that he had touched down for the second time in the game but the referee was unsighted. Wakefield returned from his yellow card but No 8, Noah Dann, who had been on great form replaced him in the bin a minute later. Four minutes later Deal forwards rumbled over for a try that Connor Moss converted. Two penalties in four minutes from Moss quickly followed and now Wanderers trailed 16-14.
Eight minutes later and back to full strength, Thanet attacked down the left through Knight who made many metres and when he was dragged down Walton took over and ran around the opposition for a fine try. The excellent conversion made the score 21-16 to Wanderers who defended brilliantly as the Lions exerted strong pressure in the closing ten minutes. When the hosts infringed and time was up, the resulting penalty was banged into touch.
All of the Wanderers’ replacements made important contributions to the win. Harrison Leach will now take a break from the game as he prepares for the fitness tests required for his chosen career in the Royal Navy. Good luck Harrison.
There were many candidates for the man of the match award in an excellent team performance that battled through a quarter of the match with 14 players. Nick Herbert made another significant contribution at ten, and Tom Walton scored two tries and kicked three crucial conversions. Charlie Knight was a constant threat with the ball in hand and took much pressure off his teammates as the home defence targeted him. Head coach Mike Pond however had no hesitation in naming a forward, Number 8, Noah Dann, as the man of the match. He was outstanding in the superb pack that worked so hard to secure the win against determined opponents.
Wanderers coaches were delighted with this fine performance after struggling during much of the first half of the season. Injuries continue to plague the squad but Connor Brown is targeting a return in the new year and skipper Sam Taylor hopes to resume running in the new year after missing the first half of the season. Harry Clemo was due to return to the front row but suffered a hamstring problem in training. Danny Clement again stepped in and as instructed by his bride-to-be, Head Physio, Monique Boorman he avoided injury. Good luck to them both for your wedding on the 23rd of December, we can’t guarantee he will return home every week without a black eye.
SQUAD: Clement, Wakefield, Goodall, Letts, Startin, Riddell-Bloomfield, Jones, Dann, Walton, Herbert (c ) Doody C. Marshall, Knight, Mirams, Dolan. Subs: Whitehead, Doody R. Leach.
Wanderers will return to action on the 7th of January 2023 when Old Alleynians are the visitors OAs are the current league leaders and defeated Wanderers 63-5 when the teams met in October.