By Colin Whiteley
Thanet Wanderers RUFC 39-31 Cranbrook RFC
The previous week’s double try scorer, Noah Dann, was not available but there was a welcome return for James Hamilton at eight and centre Adam Harrison. The newcomers at Bromley, Chris Gregory and Leon Doody retained their places and joint skipper Nick Herbert was back after missing that game due to a family event.
Cranbrook were bottom of the twelve team Counties, Kent One league with Wanderers in eleventh place after the opening four games.
Cranbrook kicked off with the advantage of the slope and a strong breeze that was blowing towards the corner. Wanderers made an unusually tentative start, conceding two early penalties and four minutes into the match some slack defence eased the visitors’ path to the line for a touch down under the posts, to give them a 0-7 lead.
A penalty to Thanet from just inside Cranbrook’s ten metre line was safely slotted by Tom Walton and Louis Marshall’s tackle halted an opposition attack. Wanderers tight-head prop Gully Goodall ran in at pace from near the 22 with Hamilton and Sam Taylor involved in the build up to touch down Wanderers’ first try and give them an 8-7 lead after ten minutes. Cranbrook hit back and Wanderers received a team warning followed by a yellow card for hooker Warren Riddell-Bloomfield.
Kurt Pearson was the front row replacement with Hamilton taking the yellow card enforced ten minutes break. Cranbrook chose to scrummage the subsequent penalty and went over under the posts to lead 14-8. Walton’s penalty attempt was wide before the visitors added another try that went unconverted. Wanderers returned to their full complement as the yellow card expired but a couple of minutes later Cranbrook were celebrating their bonus point fourth try scored within the first thirty minutes.
Tom Walton, who was playing at fullback, limped off with the recurrence of an ankle injury. Danny Clement’s long throw at a line-out was well taken by Hamilton who started a move that led to Thanet’s second try. Joint Captains, Nick Herbert and Sam Taylor, with Max Rogers, were central to the defence cracking move that ended with Taylor touching down. The conversion from wide right was first class with Marius Thompson kicking.
At half-time it was 26-15 to the visitors.
The break revitalised the Wanderers and Thompson led the way when he was on hand to finish some impressive handling to score Wanderers’ third try after five minutes following good pressure from Thanet’s pack. Thompson converted his own try to narrow the deficit to just four points. Thanet were on a roll and Henry Mirams was unlucky to be penalised for not rolling away when pinned down but more fine handling ended with some close passing between the forwards before Goodall scored his second try that gave Wanderers the lead 27-26.
This was extended to 32-26 five minutes later when Herbert’s excellent break sliced through the visitors’ defence before he was hauled down and more neat handling was required before Taylor touched down wide left for 32-26. It was still anyone’s game and after fifteen hotly contested minutes, Cranbrook exploited some uncertainty in defence to cut the home lead to 32-31. A kickable penalty attempt for Wanderers went wide before a further penalty set a line-out and the resulting forward pressure saw the pack drive over with a richly deserved touch down for lock forward Andy Letts.
Thompson made an excellent conversion and Wanderers led 39-31. Cranbrook fought hard to gain a further bonus point but Referee Lewis Frank’s whistle sounded, after another good shift from the official, and Wanderers had their first win of the season.
This was an important win for the Wanderers founded on a strong second half performance There was some excellent handling throughout the team and fitness levels were good with the match being played at a lively pace throughout. Gully Goodall at tighthead prop had another outstanding game with his powerful scrummaging and strong carries and there was great commitment throughout the team to register their first win.
This Saturday the team have another long trip to play Heathfield and Waldron in East Sussex. (Kick Off 3PM). They have yet to register their first win of the season but have had a tough series of fixtures against top opponents who they have run close. Please support if you can.