Dartfordians pull away in final quarter to win hard fought contest against Wanderers

Nick Herbert scores the second try Photo Andy Mair

By Colin Whiteley

Thanet Wanderers RUFC 10 – 33 Dartfordians RFC

There were eight changes to the side that played at Heathfield in the last league match. Gabe Hayden came in to make an excellent senior league debut at loose-head prop and Harrison Quittenden returned to first team duty at full back. Dartfordians played their rugby last season in Regional 2 (South East) before being relegated, despite having the same number of points as Beckenham, who this season head that league.

Now in third place in Counties One Kent League, Darts are one of the early candidates for promotion this season with a third of their games played.

The Bexley based side kicked off and pressed hard for an early score but Wanderers countered well and after five minutes cleared the danger with a penalty. Wanderers had the opportunity to open the scoring with a penalty two minutes later but Marius Thompson’s attempt, from Darts’ ten metres line, fell just short in the blustery conditions.

Andy Letts at a line out Photo Andy Mair

After twenty-two minutes, Darts opened the scoring as some nice handling was aided by missed tackles in the slippery conditions and the visitors led 7-0. Quittenden and joint skipper, Nick Herbert,  both made outstanding tackles to break up threatening attacks.  Fellow captain Sam Taylor, now galvanised his pack and their powerful drive finished with a touch down for lock-forward Andy Letts who completed the team try. No conversion, so Darts now led 7-5. Two minutes later a penalty set a line-out for the visitors, 20 metres from the line, on the clubhouse side. The subsequent drive could not be stemmed legally in the slippery conditions  and snaked across the field before a touchdown was signalled just left of the posts for Darts to lead 14-5.

On the cusp of half time, they thought that a charge down had led to a further score but offside was signalled and the half ended with scores unchanged.

Danny Clement and Marius Thompson took a break for the second half with Chris Gregory joining a re-arranged pack. Tom Stevens’ tackle stopped a Darts’ break but Letts now had to leave the pitch with a painful back to be replaced by Dennis Davies. Conditions were now deteriorating rapidly making Quittenden’s catch the more worthy but Darts soon went further ahead near the left touchline. The conversion attempt hit the upright and the lead was 19-5 to Darts.

Great credit to Wanderers who raised their game to set the platform for an outstanding try through Nick Herbert who dodged and barged his way through to touch down. His own conversion attempt also rebounded from the posts but Wanderers were still in the game at 19-10. Darts had other ideas and were soon camped on the hosts’ line before referee, Ross Alexander’s patience was exhausted and he was on his way to the posts to signal a penalty try.

Nick Herbert is held Photo Andy Mair

Scrum-half Leon Doody was the player to be shown yellow but it was not until the closing minutes that Darts recorded their fifth try with another conversion from their excellent kicker to win 33-10.

There was much that Wanderers will learn from this defeat. Coaches and senior players are confident that the spirit and determination shown in this game will move them forward for future matches.

Both captains, Nick Herbert and Sam Taylor, put in outstanding shifts and are determined to turn around the team’s fortunes and move up the table. Coaches will hope that the injured players will soon be available  and that a more settled side can be available for upcoming games. These start next Saturday, 11th of November with, the nearest of local derbies, a visit to Deal and Betteshanger for a 2.30 Kick Off. Please support the Wanderers.