By Colin Whiteley
Thanet Wanderers RUFC 24 – 40 Cranbrook RFC
Skipper Nick Herbert and scrum-half Tom Walton were not available for this game, they were replaced by Adam Harrison and Callum Doody with Henry Mirams back in the centre.
Harry Clemo sustained a rib injury last week and was replaced by Mike Morris with Kurt Pearson back as hooker.
It was good to see Kieran Wright back in the squad and Warren Riddell-Bloomfield as captain for the day.
Wanderers were quickly into their stride playing down the slope and soon drew a penalty. The resulting line-out and drive ended with Kurt Pearson touching down wide left. Marius Thompson’s conversion attempt went left of the posts. Cranbrook reacted with a sustained attack but were penalised and Thompson’s long clearance took play to halfway.
Thanet went further ahead after fifteen minutes when an interception put Henry Mirams away and his well-judged pass released Louis Marshall to score his second try of the season against Cranbrook. Thompson’s conversion put Wanderers into a 12-0 lead.
Wanderers mounted another attack, after taking a scrum against the head and drew a penalty. Cranbrook knocked on at the line-out and Connor Brown’s pick-up from the resulting scrum led to a forwards’ drive. Loosehead prop, Michael Morris, enhanced a good performance with his first, first team, try. Thompson’s attempted conversion was just wide but Wanderers were 17 points clear.
The visitors hit back hard and an attempted fly-hack clearance led to a Cranbrook attack and a converted try. A team warning had been issued and it was Pearson who was shown the card and ‘took one for the team’.
The visitors produced some inspired handling for a second converted try but Wanderers defended well in the run-up to halftime when they led 17-14.
Mike Whitehead replaced Joe Carlier in the front row at the start of the second half. Wanderers were conceding too many penalties and again received a yellow card warning from the excellent referee, Ben Johnston. Cranbrook’s big runners were kept out but a series of pick-and-goes could not be kept out and the visitors went ahead 17 21.
Wanderers showed great spirit to battle back and after some slick handling from the backline was stopped just short of the line Wanderers pack initiated their own series of pick-and-goes. As they moved to midfield the visiting defence moved left and there was a big enough gap for lock forward, Andy Letts, to gallop through for his second try in successive weeks. Thompson added the extras and Wanderers were ahead 24-21. Another fine handling movement looked promising but when it broke down Cranbrook showed some assured handling to burst through the home defence to run in under the posts for a 24-28 lead.
Wanderers defence was sound against another battering and produced a dominant scrum that gained many metres before being halted. The contest intensified and Marshall and Noah Dann snuffed out attacks with excellent tackles before Cranbrook built from deep and burst through for their fifth try. The visitors’ number 5 was shown yellow with minutes remaining but that didn’t stop their outstanding full back who ran from near his goal line to score a converted try. The game fizzled out with the restart not reaching the ten-metre line before the final whistle blew for a final score of 40-24.
Wanderers will take heart from their third try bonus point and look forward to next Saturday’s home match against Folkestone who are one point ahead of Wanderers in Counties One – Kent League.
Kick Off is at 2.30pm at St Peters Rec.
Man of the match was Louis Marshall who put in his usual wholehearted display, scored a try, tackled himself to a standstill and finished, as he started, with a smile on his face.