By Colin Whiteley
FOLKESTONE RFC 26 – 33 THANET WANDERERS RUFC
On a lovely early spring afternoon playing conditions were good for this quarter-final clash. Neither side had played since the close of the league season six weeks ago but there were few signs of rustiness in the lively opening exchanges.
Tom Walton’s early attempt to convert a penalty from just inside the opposition’s half missed to the left before the hosts benefited from a pair of penalties to set an attacking position. A dropped ball went loose just inside Thanet’s half and Noah Dann was quick to grab it and show a lively turn of pace before touching down for an unconverted try.
The hosts enjoyed a good spell and tested Wanderers’ defence before a dropped pass in midfield opened the gap for Folkestone to gratefully score under the posts and take a 7-5 lead. Both sides were aiming to play an open game but on the half-hour, consistent pressure on the home line from Thanet’s pack was rewarded with a try for Danny Clement.
Walton’s conversion was good to give the Wanderers the lead 12-7. That quickly became 19-7 when the home side reacted slowly to a tap penalty and it was captain for the day, Warren Riddell-Bloomfield who crashed over and Walton’s extras made it 19-7.
Half-time was near as Dann claimed his double when he was on the end of some good handling to score in the right corner. Walton’s superb conversion gave Wanderers the lead 26-7 at the break.
Playing with the stiff breeze at their backs after the break, eight minutes into the half Folkestone went over wide left after good pressure and followed up three minutes later with a try from the forwards that was very well converted cutting Thanet’s lead to just seven points 26-19.
Wanderers captain, Sam Taylor, was unable to play during the season just past due to a knee injury, he now came on from the bench and quickly made his presence felt with some trademark tackles. It was no surprise that he claimed the try following strong work from the pack after seventeen second-half minutes.
Walton’s conversion into the wind was good for Thanet to lead 33-19. The contest remained entertaining with some good handling and it was after a Wanderer’s excursion into Folkestone’s half that the referee blew for a penalty and Wanderers’ centre, Louis Marshall was shown red. We await the outcome of the enquiry that will inevitably follow.
Down to fourteen men, Wanderers defended well but with ten minutes remaining Folkestone scored under the posts to cut the lead to seven points. Thanet displayed some superb game management in those ten minutes frustrating the opposition and winning the match 33-26 after a great rearguard display of defence.
There were many quality performances from the Wanderers. Tom Stevens did well on the left wing and Gully Goodall at tighthead gave another fine display. The coaches’ choice as man of the match however was stand in captain Warren Riddell-Bloomfield following another totally committed and effective shift for the Wanderers
The draw has already been made for the semi-final and Wanderers will play at home against the Buckinghamshire side, High Wycombe RFC who defeated Aylesford 36-12 in their quarter-final. The game will be played next Saturday at St Peter’s: kick off is at 3PM.
The other semi-final is between Crowborough who are at home to Falmouth from Cornwall and the final will be at Saracens’ StoneX stadium the following Sunday.
Falmouth is in Cornwall!!