Medway 32 Belsize Park 7 (London 1 South) 11th January 2020

On a cold and very windy January afternoon in Kent, local side Medway entertained North London rivals Belsize Park at Priestfields in this Division 1 clash. A good sized crowd was present to cheer their sides on.  Belsize Park came to Priestfields having won 4 of their previous 5 outings so were going to be a stern test. The match was sponsored by an old Medway stalwart living in Australia these days, Mike Boucher.  With the strong wind blowing straight down the pitch it was Medway who were first to face the elements. Belsize Park kicked off and for 15 minutes Medway were pinned back in their own 22m. Good solid team defence kept the visitors at bay. Although pinned back Medway with Dan Harvey orchestrating things looked to retain possession when they did have it.  Strong ball carrying by forwards Dan Huntley, Mo Pangarker, Max Easton and Jordan Stubbington with excellent support saw Medway deny their visitors the possession they craved. The front row of Jack Nickalls, Billy Humphrey and Alex O’ Leary were putting their counterparts under a lot of pressure at the scrum taking away the solid platform the visitors craved.  The game was scoreless until the 25th minute. Young Max Bullock was stripped of possession in contact as he tried to carry out from just outside the Medway 22m and the Belsize centre raced away unopposed to score the converted try under the posts. 0-7.  Medway responded well. Winning back to back penalties Captain Tom Beaumont rightly opted to gain field position rather than attempt long range penalties at goal. Medway went through many phases and scrums attacking the visitors line but their defence held firm. Despite not scoring Medway frustrated their visitors with good ball retention for long periods playing into the elements.  Belsize eventually cleared their lines and camped themselves deep into the Medway half. A ball won from a visitors scrum on the Medway 22m saw the attacking pass go to ground. Max Bullock scooped it up and went the length of field outstripping the chasing Belsize Park defence to score an excellent individual try. The difficult conversion was missed.  Medway went into half time behind 5-7 but satisfied with their performance considering the elements.

The second half kicked off, Medway had the elements at their back, and this soon paid dividends when the Belsize scrum conceded a penalty under pressure. Just inside the visitors half with the wind behind Dan Harvey’s successful kick gave Medway the lead for the first time. 8-7.  Medway looked to dominate field position and squeeze their visitors but to the Belsize Park credit they always tried to play rugby from deep in an attempt to stay in the game.  Medway made changes with Rhys Burns replacing James Dance, Christian Hechter replacing Jordan Stubbington and Ross Cooley replacing Jack Nickalls.  The visitors attempt to stay in the game though was destroyed by the same combination with 2 tries in an 8 minute period.  Dan Harvey and Alfie Orris. The first try saw Medway win consecutive rucks balls and as the visitors looked to defend out wide an inside ball from Harvey opened up the line and put Orris away to score. Harvey added the conversion.  The Harvey Orris combination was on hand once again. Conor Chalmers  gathered a poor kick out from defence and set up the ruck then with Harvey creating the space holding the inside defence he put Orris away on the outside this time. Harvey converted and Medway led 22-7.  Medway now craved the bonus point. The forwards continued to pound away but the Belsize defence never gave up. With their front line defence holding firm with good line speed and tackling Harvey saw space behind and kicked over. Antony Clement capped off a solid hardworking performance by racing through re-gathering the ball and scoring under the posts thus sealing the win and the bonus point to the delight of the home crowd.  The final act of the game went to Dan Harvey as he kicked a penalty in front of the posts to make the final score 32-7.

Coach Taff Gwilliam said ‘ Belsize Park are a good side. We are delighted to have won with the bonus point. Today was about controlling the ball in the elements. Tom Beaumont led the team well with good decision making and Dan Harvey’s game management was superb. With the clinical finishing of Alfie Orris, Max Bullock and Antony Clement it was very satisfying for all’.