Wanderers fail to build on competitive first half performance against third placed Dartfordians

Dartfordians RFC 42 – 17 Thanet Wanderers RUFC

By Colin Whiteley

Dartfordians RFC 42 – 17 Thanet Wanderers RUFC

There were two changes to the Wanderers pack compared to that which started last week with a debut for Liam Matla at tighthead prop and Luke Browning was back at loosehead.

There was also a debutant in the back five with a start for Ellis Taylor. Callum and Leon Doody returned to the first XV three quarter line alongside Henry Mirams with Louis Vroninks in at full-back. Harry Clemo made a first appearance of the season on the bench with fellow finishers, Chris Hood and Lewis Downer. Bexley based, Dartfordians were relegated from the regional league last season and have been in the promotion mix for most of this season in Kent One and are currently third.

Wanderers kicked off with a strengthening breeze behind them but it was Darts who were first to build pressure and it was no surprise when they crossed for a try after just three minutes. Captain Sam Taylor led the counterattack from the restart brushing off defenders before touching down near the left touchline for a brilliant solo try. There was no conversion but the scores were level at 5-5.

Thirteen minutes into the half, a Darts attack dragged the Thanet defence out of shape and led to a second try wide right. Matla took a break after half an hour and Clemo replaced him. Vroninks broke well and when hauled down bounced back to make a good clearance. Two more unconverted tries gave the hosts the lead by 22-5 but Wanderers hit back hard after a good drive into the Darts’ half.

Walton combined well with Callum Doody who changed the point of attack and when a chip ahead was not quickly dealt with in defence and Mirams grabbed the opportunity and touched down just left of the posts. Charlie Panteli, received a warm round of applause after a routine conversion removed any demons that may have been lurking.

Wanderers’ tails were up and a series of driving pick and goes ended with Walton crossing for an unconverted try after a delicate chip and go. There was no change to the 22-17 score before half time.

Mike Whitehead took a break at the start of the second half as Matla returned. Darts, now aided by the wind, pressed but two penalties for Thanet and an excellent cover tackle from Vroninks contained the early threat. After ten minutes of the new half Darts scored with a number 8 try after a well controlled drive. Two minutes later a wide-ranging attack outflanked Wanderers’ defence before a try was scored wide left although, there was no conversion.

Walton, Wanderers inspirational scrum-half, was off with a back injury that meant he missed the rest of the match. Darts’ number seven was now shown yellow but Wanderers could not take advantage of the extra man. It was the home side who scored during his absence and although the conversion attempt rattled a post, it didn’t go over. Wanderers battled hard but could not recapture the momentum from the end of the first half.

A line out, resulting from a penalty, was lost and a well-judged interception from Mirams was quickly contained. Second row forward, Lenny Brown, joined the three-quarters and carried well before being tackled and minutes later found himself on the touchline after a high tackle brought him a yellow card. A last unconverted try made the final score 42-17 to the Darts as Wanderers could not register a fourth try to claim a losing bonus point.

There was a top performance from inspirational captain, Sam Taylor, who was superb in defence and attack. Young Louic Veroninks had his best game for Wanderers so far and thanks are due to Liam Matla for travelling to make his debut.

Wanderers regular senior men’s XVs are without a game next weekend but the Veterans have a fixture on Friday evening, under the lights at Dover. Just the curtain raiser you need before the Six Nations resumes on Saturday. Kick Off is at 7.30 PM. The first XV will be back with a home fixture against Deal and Betteshanger, Kick Off at 2.30pm on 17th February. The match will be preceded by a lunch in the clubhouse.