Medway entertained the Honourable Artillery Company for the first time ever in Saturday’s Division 1 league game at Priestfields. With the weather holding off the large crowd were treated to an enthralling match which until the final minutes could have gone either way. HAC had the better of the initial opening exchanges but it was Medway who scored first when on their very first excursion into the HAC half they won a penalty at the breakdown. Harvey was on target and the home side led 3-0. The match was a hard fought affair and HAC deservedly took the lead on 17m. Good work work from the visiting forwards saw a mismatch created in midfield for the try. The conversion put the visitors ahead 3-7. Medway had chances to score from the boot and ball in hand but uncharacteristic errors let them down. HAC always looked dangerous with their high tempo game. On 32 minutes Medway had a line out on the HAC 10m line. Bill Sandison and Max Easton combined to win the ball. James Dance fed Conor Chalmers who broke through several tackles to be hauled down just short of the line. The ball was re-cycled quickly and Dance and Harvey combined to send Orris over. The try was unconverted but Medway led 8-7.
HAC hit back almost immediately from the re-start. Medway were penalised for a high tackle. HAC kicked for the corner. From the resultant lineout their catch and drive effort was halted but after several phases near the Medway line they eventually scored the converted try to lead 8-14. Medway, with just a few minutes of the half remaining, won a penalty at the scrum. They kicked for the corner and won the line out. Medway kept the ball in hand and pressed the home line. Eventually the visitors defence was breached when Orris was on hand to dive over for his second try. Harvey converted and Medway went into to half time leading 15-14. Medway were fortunate to be leading. The combination of basic errors and the excellent play from HAC meant that the game was still anybody’s to take. To re-enforce the point HAC were the team to score first after the re-start. They gathered the kick off retained possession and camped themselves on Medway’s line. Once again they were patient. Good ball retention and re-cycling saw them eventually get over the line for a deserved try. The conversion was missed but HAC led 15-19. On 49 minutes Medway replied. The scrum was dominating and this provided the platform for Medway. Good possession from the scrums gave Medway field position. Jordan Stubbington launching attacks off this possession with good support from Antony Clement and Tom Beaumont ensured the ball was re-cycled and eventually James Dance fed Mo Pangarker for him to burst through the visitors defence and score. Harvey converted and Medway led again 22-19. Medway increased that lead when another scrum penalty gave Dan Harvey the opportunity. He made no mistake and Medway stretched the lead to 25-19. Medway won excellent field position as the game progressed but spurned good scoring opportunities near the visitors line from both boot and hand. On the back of this HAC cleared their lines efficiently. The home victory was only secured with 4 minutes left on the clock, HAC committed a high tackle in front of their own posts and Medway opted to kick and get the two score buffer. Harvey made no mistake and and Medway led 28-19.
To HAC’s credit they won the ball back from the kick off then forced Medway to concede an easy kickable penalty . This was the last play of the game. They opted to kick for the corner to try and secure two bonus points rather than the obvious one. Although they won the ball from the ensuing lineout Medway stopped the catch and drive then won the turnover at the subsequent breakdown. The referee blew for full time and Medway were the victors.
Coach Taff Gwilliam said “ there are no easy games in this league and HAC’s performance belied their lowly position” he added “It was not our best performance and we made too many basic mistakes but that is not intended take credit away from HAC who play a good brand of rugby and deserved something from this game”.
Medway next travel to Cobham who downed the league leaders Westcombe Park.