By Colin Whiteley
Thanet Wanderers RUFC 22 –22 Dover Sharks RFC
Mike Whitehead and Andy Letts returned to Wanderers’ pack after missing last week’s game at Deal. Tom Walton was back at scrum half after being absent from the last three games with injury. He partnered Marius Thompson at ten who returned after international duty with Norway.
Louic Vroninks, a Belgian student at Saint Lawrence College, made his first team Wanderers’ debut on the wing and Henry Mirams was back in the centre. Danny Clement and Adam Harrison were on Thanet’s bench after injury with Chris Hood who last featured for the Wanderers first XV in pre-Covid days.
Dover, who were promoted as champions from Counties Kent 2 last season, kicked off down the slope and pushed hard for an early score. Wanderers withstood the challenge and Nick Herbert’s good clearance took play to near half way. From the resulting line-out, the visitors worked their way down the Thanet half to score under the posts and take a 7-0 lead after ten minutes. Wanderers responded well with Thompson breaking strongly.
The penalties to Wanderers were steadily accumulating as Dover scrambled to keep their line secure. Full back, Harrison Quittenden, showed some footballing skills to bring play to Dover’s right-hand corner as Wanderers’ pressure built and good field position was set near the visitors’ line. The drive brought a first try of the season for Number 8 Brett Scott who touched down under the posts for Walton to convert and bring the scores level.
A good chase from Will Mahoney, supported by Mirams, now led to a line-out 5 metres from Dover’s line. Whitehead’s throw in was good and he was in the subsequent drive to claim his second try of the season. Walton made an excellent conversion from near the touchline and the hosts were 14-7 ahead. Dover hit back quickly with a forwards’ drive and touchdown in the clubhouse corner for an unconverted try. Thanet’s Tighthead Prop, Gully Goodall, was a powerhouse taking play to his opponents and the three-quarters threatened before a penalty opportunity, with the last kick of the first half, saw Tom Walton stretch the lead to 17-12.
Clement replaced Whitehead at the start of the second half as Wanderers now played with the slope but into a stiffening wind. An early attack promised points but ended in a penalty to Dover for not releasing. More penalties followed against Thanet and Dover levelled the scores after thirteen minutes with a try wide left that was not converted and made the score 17 all. A good spell for the visitors ended ten minutes later when quick handling brought them an unconverted try, just in from the right touch-line, and the lead at 22-17.
A series of penalties kept Wanderers on the attack and finally it was joint Captain Sam Taylor who scored his sixth try of the season to bring the scores level. The momentum was with Wanderers and Herbert’s cross kick almost gave Vroninks a dream ending to a good debut but he slipped as he turned for the nearby line and was wrapped up by the defenders. Shortly afterwards, today’s referee, Katie Gent, indicated that a penalty, in a kickable position, would be the final action of the match. However, Tom Walton’s, kick was marginally wide and a memorable match ended in a 22-22 draw.
This was a much improved performance from the Wanderers that pleased the good crowd of spectators who were bolstered by those who attended the Sponsors and Vice Presidents lunch beforehand. The whole squad performed with a determination and commitment that will please Coaches Elliot Blackmore and Kieran Hopper as they prepare for the run up to Christmas that includes fixtures against two of the top three teams in the league. There is no first team game next Saturday 25th of November; action resumes with an away game against Charlton Park on the 2nd of December which will kick off at 2PM. Those who are travelling to support, should remember that Charlton Park’s Kidbrooke ground is within the ULEZ zone.