By Colin Whiteley
HEATHFIELD AND WALDRON RFC 24-8 THANET WANDERERS RUFC
There were nine changes to the Wanderers squad compared to last week’s team. Danny Clement returned at loose-head prop and Andy Bourton stepped up to fill the tighthead berth. There was a first start for Charlie Panteli at ten with Tom Walton at scrum-half. It was good to see Brett Scott back on the bench in the blue, black and gold.
This fixture was rearranged from the game in mid-September after the referee was injured. Only four of Thanet’s starters remained from that game and it was clear that there had been changes to H&W’s ranks too, with both sides starting with a blend of youth and some players of long experience.
Heathfield and Waldron (H&W) made a quick start before a good mark, under pressure, from Marius Thompson helped Thanet to settle. Wanderers were penalised for not releasing but a good long clearance from Walton eased the pressure. Wanderers did well to keep their line intact in the opening fifteen minutes with most of the play in their half but H&W then sent the ball along the line for their left winger to touch down for an unconverted try.
Connor Brown broke well and drew a penalty for Thanet in midfield just inside the home 10 metre line. Walton sent his kick high and straight to make the score 5-3 to H&W. Wanderers were now showing more fluency and when Panteli grabbed a goal-line drop out, he quickly sent Thompson away and the full back made good metres before handing on for Henry Mirams to race over in the left corner.
Walton’s conversion attempt went across the face of the posts but Wanderers led 8-5. Wanderers were going well and a penalty sent them to around 25 metres out. Dann competed well at a line out to rescue possession and the visitors looked threatening before being recalled for a borderline forward pass. Four minutes of the half remained when Wanderers Captain for the day, Jack Startin, landed awkwardly after a competitive line-out and had to be helped from the ground. Ed Plori moved from 8 to the second row and Brett Scott came on at 8.
Wanderers attacked strongly as the second half began. Brown and Thompson combined well but the hosts won the subsequent race to touch down. Thanet’s backs augmented a drive in an effort to cross the line but the home defence stood firm and 15 minutes into the half, Tom Walton was also forced off having exacerbated a persistent injury. Inside centre Adam Harrison moved to scrum half and Lewis Downer went on in the centre.
Wanderers continued to look dangerous before, on the hour, H&W took advantage of a favourable bounce from a clearance kick to move the ball right and run in their second try, which was converted, for a 12-8 lead. H&W were now playing with the momentum and were rewarded with a try, after a flirtation with the right touchline. Brown was shown yellow as Wanderers defence was tested and with the last play of the match the hosts helped themselves to a try bonus point following some poor defence from Wanderers.
The excellent conversion from near the touchline sealed a good victory for H&W who remain in fifth place with Wanderers continued participation in this league looking increasingly endangered with two games to play. Next Saturday the team visits Aylesford who are in bottom place but have shown much improved form as the season draws to a close. Kick off is at 3pm and all support will be very welcome.
The back row put in a terrific shift against Heathfield and Noah Dann’s athleticism, tackle completion and competition at the breakdown was outstanding today: he was the Wanderers’ coaches choice as man of the match.