By Colin Whiteley
Thanet Wanderers RUFC 25 – 28 Canterbury Pilgrims RFC
It was good to see James Green back in the Thanet front-row to take on the club for whom he played on nearly 200 occasions. Joint captain, Nick Herbert, was a late withdrawal due to Covid, Charlie Panteli came in at ten and Henry Mirams was back on the left wing. Dennis Davies and debutant Will Mahoney were on the bench.
Wanderers made a confident start and had the best of the early exchanges. It was no surprise when their pressure drew a penalty after just three minutes that Tom Walton despatched. The scrum-half made it 6-0 eight minutes later from close to the visitors’ ten metre line. Four minutes later a promising Canterbury attack was broken up and as they built again it was Walton who made a good interception just inside the opposition’s half and then won the race to the line. His third successful kick gave Thanet a 13-0 lead.
Canterbury regrouped and a strong drive took them over wide left for an unconverted try. Brett Scott’s tackling was at its best today but a misjudgement from the restart resulted in a yellow card for Thanet’s Number eight. Canterbury scored their second try following a penalty that took them close to the try line before driving over for a converted try to trail by a point at 13-12. Walton’s penalty attempt from distance went just wide before Wanderers conceded a disappointing third try when they attempted to play their way out of defence. Opportunities to clear the danger were lost and the Pilgrims scored an unconverted try wide right to take the lead at 13-17 as half time neared..
Danny Clement started at Hooker in the second half as Mike Whitehead took a break. The Pilgrims started the second period at pace and Warren Riddell-Broomfield disrupted their drive well before Scott made a great carry and then led a drive for the line. As the game neared the hour mark, Canterbury secured their try bonus point with a well worked score that followed a wide ranging handling movement. There was no conversion but the visitors led 22-13.
Thanet’s front five in the pack put in a wonderful shift with Gully Goodall dominant at tighthead and Andy Letts, with second row partner, Lenny Brown, were on imperious form. A great drive from Thanet’s pack brought a well deserved try for the eight and unsurprisingly it was Jimmy Green who claimed the try. Another fine conversion from Walton narrowed the deficit to 20-22. A strong battle for the next important points saw attack and counter attack but as tiredness levels rose on a warm afternoon, a new kicker for the visitors slotted two penalties to draw eight points ahead.
Thanet were determined not to end the day without a league point and in the final play of the afternoon, Panteli at ten, called for the ball and his pin-point accurate cross-kick was grabbed out wide left by Mirams whose dive for the line sealed a spectacular try from the last play of the game. No conversion, but Wanderers had a losing bonus point to show for a good afternoon’s work.
Wanderers’ Coaches, Elliot Blackmore and Kieran Hopper, praised the efforts of the team and particularly the performances of veterans Jimmy Green and Andy Letts whose fitness and relish for a contest are outstanding. Andy Dolan did well in the less familiar role of full back and in the centre, the partnership of Adam Harrison and Max Rogers has developed into a potent force in defence and attack. Louis Marshall on the right wing didn’t see as much of the ball as usual but was as effective as ever in defence.
The return to the team of Sam Taylor, after a season missed through injury, has brought an impetus to the side where his motivation and leadership skills are a major asset.
Some changes to the team are likely for the long trip to take on Beccehamian next Saturday. The West Wickham side enjoyed a best ever third place in Kent One Counties last season and have won one of their fixtures this year to be in sixth place. Kick off is at 3pm.