Rugby: Old Gravesendians 38 Whistable 17
PUBLISHED: 13:25 12 September 2018
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Old Gravesendians started their Kent League Division One campaign with a home victory on Saturday as they overcame a resilient Whitstable side 38-17.
But while the scoreline was comfortable in the end, the visitors played their full part in the contest and battled hard throughout.
Old Gs started slowly, with Whitstable charging forward on the return to Kent One after their title winning season in Kent Two last year.
Their pack seemed to be the weapon of choice, which Old Gs kept providing the ammunition for with concession of penalties, enabling Whits to kick for touch and use their powerful driving line out.
Soon one of these breached the Old Gs defensive line, 0-5 in the opening 10 minutes.
Buoyed by a quick kick up the rear from skipper Frazer Barnes and coach Andy Miller Old Gs began to work their way into the game, having plenty of possession.
However the continuity of play seen in preseason was somewhat absent, the enterprising interplay not quite clicking to trouble the opposition rear-guard, with possession not turning into the tries that would be expected.
The pressure began to tell on the visitors who conceded two penalties in quick succession which Matt Thompson converted to give Old Gs a 6-5 lead.
Old Gs kept searching for the opening try of their competitive season, but this was thwarted by repetitive handling errors across the board, handing the initiative back to the away side who had ideas of their own as to where the next score was coming from.
The Whits fly half brushed off a tackler around the fringe, found his supporting centre, before receiving a return offload to dive over. The conversion saw the score 6-12.
The rest of the half belonged to the home side, with debutant Sam Baker leading the charge with ball in hand, ably supported by back row colleagues Andrew Kidd and Chris Daniels. Kidd thought he was over in the corner for a try after finally a few phases had been linked together, but the score was ruled out, with the last pass deemed forward.
Debutant scrum half Grant Roe also has a score ruled out after sniping from a close range free kick, the match official ruling that he had taken the tap not close enough to the mark.
However Old Gs were now looking threatening, with Whits firmly on the back foot.
The final finish wasn’t to be found though, including 2-3 opportunities out wide where the backline couldn’t quite find the final pass or the interplay required to get over the whitewash.
Two further penalties were conceded by Whits though, with Thompson needing no second invitation to level the scores at half time. 12-12.
As Old Gs reflected on their exertions, and the message was clear - retain possession, stay patient, raise the tempo of the game and the chances will come.
With a notably vibrant spring in their step Old Gs took the lead early in the second half.
A penalty was kicked to the corner, and good lineout ball secured as the forwards set a rolling maul up 15 yards out.
The pack marched forward and over the line, hooker Matt Johnson with his hands on the ball for Old Gs first try of the season. Thompson converted and Old Gs had the lead 19-12.
Whitstable were not done though, and despite strong Old Gs defence around the fringes, notably from Brett Buckingham and Andy Morris, they started to move the ball wide.
Their winger received the ball 40 yards out, with seemingly Old Gs defence in place to shut out the threat.
However he saw off 3 would be tacklers to dart over in the corner to somewhat deflate Old Gs growing bubble of ascendency. 19-17.
Old Gs didn’t let this halt their progress though and were soon back in the Whits half, ball carriers such as Lewis Moss, Chris Daniels and Sam Baker making the hard yards providing a strong platform for half backs Grant Roe and Matt Holdstock to release the backline.
The phases were grinding the Whits defence down, opening space for opportunities to be capitalised on.
Roe found Holdstock on the blind side, and with the defence on rushing delayed his pass to find Andrew Kidd who used fleet of foot to beat the covering defence to cross in the corner to make it 24-17.
Old Gs were now buoyed by the momentum they had built, and with the boots of Roe, Holdstock and centre Ben Wadsworth keeping Whits pinned back in their own half the confidence began to show in Old Gs play.
Chris Daniels hammered his way up field, ably supported by replacement Jack Nash.
Roe sniped on the short side, found Holdstock who tipped to full back Chris Johnson to dive over. Thompson converted and it was 31-17.
Old Gs rang their final changes, with Paul Mitchell in at prop and a debut for Ash Bourne in the back row.
In his 10 minutes, Bourne showed the destructive presence in defence that he could be for Old Gs despite being a relative newcomer to the game.
Old Gs continued to plug away as they looked for the bonus point score.
Finally it came as Grant Roe capped off an impressive debut in the nine shirt. Sensing an opportunity he broke through space at the ruck, and despite covering defenders he brushed off 3-4 Whits tacklers to power over.
Thompson added the extras to extend the advantage to 38-17 and his own personal points tally to 18.