By Colin Whiteley
THANET WANDERERS RUFC 15 – 28 CROWBOROUGH RFC
Saracens’ StoneX stadium was the venue for the final and provided a great experience for the players and spectators of both clubs.
Wanderers kicked off and after two minutes a cross kick from skipper Nick Herbert resulted in a well taken try for left-wing Andrew Dolan who is in his first season of senior rugby. Tom Walton’s attempted conversion, from near the touchline, went across the posts but Wanderers led 5-0. Thanet were feeding on loose balls but a promising move ended when they were penalised for crossing. Wanderers’ influential second row, Connor Brown, was an early withdrawal with an arm injury, to be replaced by Lenny Brown.
On nine minutes, Crowborough converted a penalty from in front and 20 metres for 5-3. The Crows were hoisting high balls to test Wanderers but Thanet defenders were faultless under the barrage. Walton and full-back, Marius Thompson combined well from near their own line but were halted near their opponents’ line. The Crows defence regrouped and Thanet could find no way through.
The Wanderers penalty count was mounting and on 23 minutes the referee issued a team warning. There was a rare penalty for Thanet five minutes later and Brown made good metres but minutes later he offended and was shown the yellow card. The Crows’ big and efficient pack upped the pressure and finally got the touch down for a converted try that made the half time score 10-5.
Mike Whitehead came off the bench at the start of the second half and Brown rejoined the pack. Sam Taylor also came on but but his early tackle was adjudged to have made contact with an opponent’s head; however the four officials decided it was low risk and showed a yellow rather than red card.
Charlie Knight was also on from the bench and quickly made a big tackle. The Crows were looking for an early score but great defence from the Wanderers kept their line intact for the first 13 minutes until the Crows attempted penalty rebounded from a post and some good handling brought a touch down under the posts that increased their lead to 17-5. Walton reduced the deficit with a penalty from 22 metres.
Crowborough’s number 8 was shown a yellow as they defended against a patient build up from Thanet’s pack that ended with Clement scoring on his 350th appearance for the Wanderers. Walton added the extras and Wanderers had closed to 15-17. Taylor returned but a cross kick from the Crows led to a touch down despite Knight’s tackle. 15-22. Seventeen Years old Charlie Panteli now joined the fray.
Good opportunities went begging for Wanderers before an early push at a scrum saw the Crows extend their lead to 15-25 and minutes later this became 15-28 after another penalty was conceded. A last gasp effort from Wanderers petered out with a knock on and Crowborough claimed a well earned victory. Congratulations to them, we look forward to next season’s encounters.
Andrew Dolan was Wanderers Man of the Match. He scored a great try and didn’t put a foot wrong throughout the match. An impressive achievement from the young man on a big stage.
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