Gravesend II 5 Medway Extra 1st 80 (Invicta 1) – 16th September 2017

The Extras made the short trip to Gravesend keen to build on their winning start to the season but even they can’t have thought that they would score eighty points evenly spread across both halves.

Medway scored straight from the kick off as the ball was tipped back into the hands of the evergreen John Dugan who, with fellow prop Al Waterman latched on to him, made fifteen yards into the Gravesend half before quick ball from the ruck set the backs free. Winger Alfie Orris nearly made it to the line but as he was tackled he popped the ball up for No.8 Ben Dance to touch down in the corner. At 0 – 5 Medway were up and running and they increased their lead barely five minutes later as they won the restart and quickly made their way up to the Gravesend five metre line. After Medway knocked on Gravesend were awarded the scrum but they were unable to deal with the power from the Medway forwards and after three penalties for taking it down they conceded a penalty try gifting Medway a 0 – 12 lead. Medway won the restart and again quickly became encamped on the Gravesend five metre line where a number of Gravesend penalties saw Medway mixing it up with both scrums and line-outs until Dance took one quickly, off loading to hooker Andy Connell who crashed over. Brad Ford converted for 0 – 19 and was then instrumental in the next try as the forwards stole a Gravesend line-out and Ford sent a huge kick upfield. The backs chased well and when the ball bounced kindly for Orris he ran in almost unopposed for a 0 – 26 lead. The restart was won by flanker Josh Hawkins and he made ground through the heart of the Gravesend defence where yet more quick ball from the ruck set the backs free. Centres Rhys Townsend and Sam Sharpe were breaking the line every time they had the ball and when Sharpe again broke through he released Orris who beat his opposing winger and then the full back to score his second and Medway’s 5th, increasing the lead to 0 – 33. Medway’s sixth try came as yet another clearance from Ford bounced kindly to full back Rhys Burns who found Sharpe in space. He made ground before releasing Orris who ran in for a 0 – 40 lead. As the score mounted the game became very ill-tempered with a number of late tackles and off the ball incidents that referee Mr Hollins did well to manage but this unfortunately set the tone for the rest of the game. Gravesend also lost a prop to injury which resulted in Medway having to accept uncontested scrums for the second week running. As half time approached Orris scored his fourth and Medway’s seventh for a half time lead of 0 – 47.

Medway continued to press throughout the second half and with scrum half Ben Wellard now steering the team around well, their eighth try came as prop Connell found himself in the backs as the ball came out wide. He took it and charged forward with winger Matt Brightman outside him screaming for the ball. Connell however took the hard route going in to contact and offloading over his shoulder to Toby Gerdes-Hansen who managed to crash over the line. Another successful Ford conversion saw Medway extend their lead to 0 – 54. Gravesend were next to score which was just reward for their efforts as they took a quick tap and go penalty allowing their prop to crash over but Medway came back almost immediately with a second Connell try as he burrowed in at the back of a ruck before diving over for a 5 – 61 lead. Medway’s tenth came as they again comfortably won the restart allowing Ford to put in yet another ‘bomb’ which saw Dance collect and make ground before giving it to winger Brightman. He beat the full back with some deft footwork to score in the corner and another great kick from Ford saw Medway extend the lead to 5 – 68. The next score came from Dance as he spotted a gap in the Gravesend defence which he exploited well for a 5 – 73 lead and the last score was added by second row Dan Goodall who crashed over following a period of extensive forwards pressure in the Gravesend twenty- two. The final whistle went with Medway running out 5 – 80 winners.

This was an ill-tempered game which was a shame as both teams were capable of playing some very good rugby. Gravesend were competitive and were a much tougher outfit than last season despite the scoreline. If they continue with their philosophy of playing their talented youngsters they will be a force to be reckoned with in a few years time. Thanks must go to referee Mr Hollins who remained calm and focussed throughout this feisty game and controlled things well.

Squad: John Dugan, Andy Connell, Al Waterman, Dan Goodall, Richie Desmond, Josh Hawkins, Ben Shove, Dan O’Brien, Ben Dance, Ben Wellard, Brad Ford, Alfie Orris, Rhys Townsend, Sam Sharpe, Matt Brightman, Rhys Burns, Dave French, Bobby Ellis, Toby Gerdes-Hansen

Thurrock 15 Medway 20 (London 1 South) – 16th September 2017

Medway travelled to Essex side Thurrock on Saturday looking to maintain their winning start to the season.  The home side had the first advantage of a strong wind at their backs and soon had Medway on the back foot defending their line. Only a good tackle by Harvey prevented the opening score. However Medway continually failed to find touch with their clearance kicks and the dangerous Thurrock back 3 counter attacked and pinned Medway back.

They were rewarded with very kickable penalties but turned these down and although winning the resultant line outs were repulsed by strong Medway defence.  On 19 mins Medway had a rare foray into Thurrock territory and following good work by Wardzynski were awarded a penalty. Sadly this struck the post.

Another short range penalty miss meant the game remained scoreless until when on 26 minutes Medway were awarded yet another penalty. This time they went for the corner. A well executed catch and drive by the forwards pack saw the hard working Michael Gardner secure the score. Harvey landed the touchline conversion and the visitors led 7-0.

Thurrock came back strongly and in their best period of the match scored two excellent tries one of which was converted. Both tries were on the back of the visitors failing to clear their lines. Thurrock’s backs were counter attacking very well.

Despite losing both Humphrey and Whitnell to injury from the front row their replacements O’ Leary and Cooley were prominent in stabilising the the scrummage.

Medway were still taking the game to the home team. Runs from Hall and Chalmers and half breaks from Dance and the centres Greyvenstein and Clement stretched the home defence. With just a minute of the half remaining Medway went through a series of phases between both backs and forwards. Easton, Debeer, Huntley and Beaumont were all prominent in winning a penalty in front of Thurrock’s posts. Harvey was on target and Medway went into the second half trailing by just 12-10

With the wind at their backs Medway kicked deep. Thurrock looked to run out but good pressure from Medway saw them force the error. From the subsequent solid Medway scrum Stubbington broke blind to score a fine individual try under the posts. Harvey converted and Medway were now ahead 17-12.

With the conditions as they were one would have expected the visitors to build on this early score but too many individual errors and poor decisions gave the home side hope. Having already lost two players to injury Medway then lost influential full back Charlie Wardzynski to a fractured shoulder that is expected to keep him out for some considerable time. He was replaced at fullback by scrum half Sam Garofalo a most versatile player.

Thurrock are a strong team and needed no second invitation. They pressed the Medway line hard and once again defence kept Medway in the game.

However the home side were in the ascendency and when they were awarded a penalty under the posts they took the points to trail by just 2 at 17-15.

From the restart Thurrock knocked on and were then penalised for offside. Although a long range attempt Harvey was accurate and Medway led 20-15.

With just 7 minutes to go Medway found themselves defending their line from wave after wave of pick and go’s and short range attacks. They conceded penalties and defended the subsequent catch and drives. Thurrock then looked to tap and run but this too was thwarted. Eventually Medway forced the error and cleared their lines deep into the home 22m.

The home sides efforts to break out in the closing minutes saw them turn the ball over. A Harvey drop goal hit the posts then as the home side tried to break out again with time up they conceded another penalty and this was kicked out to seal an extremely hard fought victory.

Coach Taff Gwilliam said ‘this was a severe examination of our squad’s character, depth and ability to perform under pressure. I am pleased we came through it’ he added ‘Thurrock are a tough resilient team and will be disappointed not to have got more from the game but we did defend very well’

Medway next take on inform Sevenoaks at Priestfields next Saturday.