Two tries for Charlie Knight as Wanderers win hard-fought encounter

Aylesford Bulls RFC 6 – 22 Thanet Wanderers RUFC

By Colin Whiteley

Aylesford Bulls RFC 6 – 22 Thanet Wanderers RUFC

The Wanderers’ pack showed six changes to last week’s starting XV. There was a first-team debut for Tom Ball in the second row where he became the 50th player to appear for the Wanderers’ first XV this season.

He replaced Jack Startin whose injury sustained last week at Heathfield is likely to mean a long layoff. There was a start for Harry Clemo, at tight-head, after his return to the bench last week whilst Regan Doody was hooker and Brett Scott started at six. Skipper Nick Herbert was back at ten after injury and Charlie Knight was on the left wing.

The Bulls kicked off and had much the best of the opening ten minutes penning Wanderers in their half. Their big runners in the pack and midfield were repeatedly repulsed and a kickable penalty was missed before Knight led the breakout. Joined by Noah Dan a penalty was drawn which Tom Walton despatched for a 3-0 lead after 13 minutes.

This was Thanet’s first incursion into the hosts’ half. Five minutes later, Walton’s more ambitious attempt from the wide right on the home ten metres line was good for distance but just left of the posts. Clemo’s charge down of an attempted clearance and fellow prop, Danny Clement’s advance, set up some good handling and a final drive over the line from Knight. Walton’s conversion from close to the touchline was brilliant and the Wanderers were 10-0 ahead.

Back came the Bulls and when Wanderers infringed, in front and 25 metres out, their kicker made no mistake. A long penalty to touch set up another spell of attack from the Bulls and when Wanderers broke clear, they were penalised at a breakdown. Referee Ben Johnson had previously warned the side and it was full-back Marius Thompson who was shown the yellow card.

The Bulls’ subsequent attack was resisted and with half-time close, Knight received just outside his 22 and weaved through his opponents on his way to touch down halfway between posts and touch. Walton’s conversion made it 17-3 to the Wanderers. Good chases from Louis Marshall and Henry Mirams snuffed out promising attack situations for the hosts and the score was unchanged at halftime.

When Thompson’s ten minutes in the sin bin expired he did not return, due to a dead leg, and was replaced by James Crompton. The Wanderers’ penalty count continued to rise and seven minutes into the half, the Bulls converted one from close to reduce the deficit to 17-6. Following another referee’s warning, Dann was now shown yellow. Both of Thanet’s remaining subs, Ed Plori and Andy Bourton made significant contributions during their minutes in the match.

Ball, who made an impressive debut, was close to scoring after Knight initiated a flowing movement from his wing. One of the Bulls was now shown yellow and Wanderers went close from the line-out that followed. At the other end, Walton’s long clearance from a penalty broke up a spell of the Bulls’ pressure. When the referee announced seven minutes remained Thanet pressed and with the final play of the game the forwards went close before the ball was spun to Herbert who raced in. Walton’s hurried conversion attempt was wide but no time remained and the Wanderers had won 22-6.

Wanderers’ coaches were delighted with the win that was founded on a strong defensive performance. Outstanding, with a fine tackling record, was Brett Scott and Andy Letts celebrated an estimated 350 games for Thanet with another huge performance. There was another big game from Adam Harrison at inside centre but, after another fine performance, it was number 8, Lenny Brown who was chosen by the home side and endorsed by Thanet’s coaches as Wanderers’ man of the match.

On Saturday (March 11) Wanderers will play their final league match of the season, at home, to Ashford ( Kick Off 3 PM), who have had a very good season to date, winning twelve matches. All support will be very welcome as the Wanderers look for points to improve their league position with the possibility of relegation still looming. The match will be proceeded by the annual Paul Keohane Sports Fund Charity lunch which will make for a great atmosphere for the game. There may be a few returned tickets available if you haven’t booked yet, check availability with John Keohane or Kelly, please.