Medway 30 Westcombe Park 31 (London 1 South) 14th December 2019

Medway entertained Kent rivals Westcombe Park at Priestfields on Saturday in this top of the table clash.  Medway were dealt a blow before the game even kicked off when Tight Head Prop Alex O’ Leary had to withdraw with an ankle injury. Ross Cooley switched to tight head. Young Jack Nickalls started his first full game. Dan Huntley who turned up to watch came onto the bench following a lengthy lay off.  With a strong breeze blowing straight down the pitch it was Medway who had first use but Westcombe Park came out the blocks quickest and led after just 5 minutes . Missed tackles in midfield saw them score a converted try.  Medway responded 9 minutes later when Bill Sandison and Christian Hechter combined to provide the ball for Max Bullock and Alfies Orris to  put Tom Beaumont away. Dan Harvey converted from the touchline and levelled the score at 7-7.  Two penalties from Dan Harvey on 17 and 24 minutes put Medway ahead 13-7. Westcombe Park responded with one of their own to narrow to gap. 13-10.  The next score of the first half came on 37 minutes and went to the home side. Having won a penalty Medway opted to kick for the corner and a well worked line out by Sandison, Easton and Huntley saw Bill Sandison score in the corner. Harvey landed the conversion to put the home side out to 20-10.  The last play of the half saw Harvey on target again from a penalty and the home side went into half time leading 23-10.

Westcombe Park came out of the blocks firing in the second half. With a strong wind at their backs they dominated field position. A breakdown penalty followed by an unconverted try out wide with 8 minutes got them back to 23-18.  Medway were on the back foot having lost both Mo Pangarker and Jordan Stubbington out of their back row to injury. Hooker Bill Humphrey was filling in at No 8.   On 53 minutes Westcombe Park won another penalty at the breakdown with Medway penalised for hands in the ruck. The kick was successful and the score was now 23-21.  On 58 minutes another infringement from the home side was punished and saw Westcombe Park take the lead 23-24.  Sam Garofalo came on James Dance at scrum half. Medway need to get control of the ball and keep it if they were to stay in the game and have a chance.  On 67 minutes they did just that. Following a series of phases and good line out driving from Medway they eventually won a penalty on Westcombe Park’s 5m line. Medway opted for the scrum and drove for the line. The Westcombe Park pack could not hold the drive and broke off. Medway stayed square and the referee went under the posts and awarding the penalty try. 30-24.  The last 10 minutes saw both sides battling for the victory and it was the visitors who prevailed. Sadly, with just 2 minutes remaining, inept tackling allowed Park to round the home defence and go under the posts. The conversion was successful and they completed a 30-31 victory.

Medway coach Taff Gwilliam said “ this was always going to be a tough game but injuries are no excuse for the defeat. We failed to do some of the defensive basics well enough and to Westcombe Park’s credit they took full advantage’’  he added “ we never gave up and to come back and score our last try in those conditions was excellent…we just failed to close it out”