By Colin Whiteley
Thanet Wanderers RUFC 13 – 19 Crowborough RFC
Gabe Haden, returning at tighthead, was the only change to Wanderers pack compared to last week’s starting XV. Louis Marshall, Andy Dolan and Harrison Quittenden returned to the backs where Marius Thompson switched from full back to outside half.
Wanderers kicked off up the slope on a slippery, muddy pitch with a strengthening breeze at their back. Both sides took their time to get accustomed to the testing conditions but after fifteen minutes the visitors set a good position with a penalty and, aided by some weak tackles, opened the scoring with an unconverted try.
There was a quick reaction from the Wanderers who utilised good field position to mount a flowing attack with full-back Quittenden joining the line before backing himself to get the touchdown. Tom Walton’s attempted conversion went across the face of the posts but Thanet were level at 5-5. Walton’s penalty attempt from the halfway line went wide. Wanderers were in the ascendancy, but the visitors defence was sound until Quittenden kept the ball in play and sparked another fine attack.
Nick Herbert made good ground before winger Dolan took over and celebrated his return, after four weeks away, with a well worked try. Wanderers defence needed to be strong in the ten minutes that remained of the half but the break came with Wanderers leading 10-5.
The wind was now strong and had become a serious factor for the second period of the game. An early penalty from Crowborough was well judged on the wind and set a line-out deep in Wanderers territory which served as the platform for a sustained series of attacks from the visitors. Wanderers defence was tigerish and kept their line intact until a Crows attack was held up. The goal line drop out sailed long but straight out and Thanet were pegged back for a 5 metre scrum.
The Crows’ big pack resumed their pressure and ten minutes into the half, referee Simon Bingham, was running to the posts to award a penalty try that edged the visitors into a 12-10 lead. Wanderers again found themselves in defensive mode for most of the next fifteen minutes as they repelled attack after attack before finally the visitors claimed a third try close to the left touchline. The conversion was excellent to open a 19-10 lead for Crowborough.
It was now time for their defence to be tested as Thanet aimed to get back into at least bonus point territory on the scoreboard. In the game’s final minute, Wanderers could not break through despite playing with the advantage but with the last kick of the game, Walton banged over a penalty from in front and close and Wanderers had their bonus point but Crowborough were deserved winners by 19-13.
Wanderers coaches and particularly those supporters who watched the meek submission at Charlton Park seven days previously, will welcome the renewal of Thanet’s spirit and refusal to accept defeat without contesting every centimetre of ground.
Wanderers next first XV fixture will be on Friday evening at Canterbury to play their second XV under the lights. (Kick Off 7.45 PM). Since Thanet gave them a real scare in the second match of the season, when it took a late penalty to win the game, they have completed a largely untroubled, unbeaten run of eleven matches and lead the league table by eight points. Please support the Wanderers as they seek an upset against the Pilgrims.
SQUAD: Gully Goodall, Mike Whitehead, Gabe Hayden, Andy Letts, Dennis Davies, Warren Riddell-Bloomfield, Sam Taylor (C), Brett Scott, Tom Walton, Marius Thompson, Louis Marshall, Nick Herbert (C), Henry Mirams, Andy Dolan, Harrison Quittenden, SUBS, Danny Clement, Chris Hood, Leon Doody.