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Tonbridge Juddians 20-14 Gravesend
An unusual start to the game as three minutes in home loose head was sent to the bin for an offence only seen by the referee, then just moments later when Gs were awarded a penalty, both touch judges raised their flags to approve the Chris Meddings kick only to see the referee over-rule their decision.
Conditions were difficult under foot, from the previous two days rain, and playing on a pitch smaller than the teams were used to but from these early decisions all knew that this was not going to be an easy encounter.
TJs were the first to strike form as they were winning turn-over ball, and gaining success at the line-out as Gs failed to fire-up.
Ten minutes into the game and Gs were on the back foot as they threw everything into defending their line, but as they became overstretched TJs hooker Kevin Corrigan found room to touch down.
Dan Hawkes slotted over the conversion for a 7-0 advantage.
With their line-out not functioning, and their field kicks not finding touch, Gs found themselves under attack from the finely tuned Home three-quarter line, and it was only some fine tackling by Bishop, Moorey and Gray that slowed them down.
Gravesend found they were further adrift at the end of the first quarter as they failed to stop a huge effort from the home pack as they drove forward for Tom Nabbs to get the ball down on the line.
Although Gs were gaining a fair share of the possession the small errors were getting in their way, along with a poorly positioned official who was constantly in the way of play.
Hawkes added a penalty to TJs earlier scores to take the home side in 15-0 at the interval, while Gs went off looking to re-group.
The fight back started for Gs as the second half started, but again it was TJs that put points on the board as lost possession in Gs twenty two saw a quickly seized on ball moved wide for Charlie Harding to cross wide out.
For the next thirty minutes TJs had to fight to keep their line secure, and were helped in this respect as Stevens was judged to have been held up over the line.
Gravesend’s forwards had by now taken a tight hold on the game. Their line-out began to get results and their pick and drives had the home pack rolling backwards.
Despite these efforts reward was slow coming and when Meddings was yellow carded as he strayed off-side, and Adam Bishop left the field injured, and out for the next few weeks, the task looked ever more difficult.
True to their nature, Gs didn’t roll over, far from it joint man-of-the-match recipients of the previous week, Marc Klus and Charlie Cutting, along with the rest of the pack slowly ground out a score when Forsyth forced his way down for their first try.
With Meddings side-lined, Dave McMurtrie stepped up for a kick that was on the limit of his range, and the full back duly obliged by adding the conversion for 20-7.
With the taste of success now in their mouths, it was mainly Gs on the ascendancy, and when TJs did get possession they made the mistake of running it back into the Gravesend forwards, only to be dispossessed.
More driving forward from the line-outs, coupled with the pick and drives down the centre of the park and Gs were looking hungry for the next score and it wasn’t long before it came as Klus was driven down for their second.
Meddings was now back on the park for the conversion, which he added to narrow to 20-14 putting Gs in the bonus point position they desperately needed.
Not content with this they went hunting for the next try and a possible win, but this last five minutes of the game saw the TJs come back, but with neither side scoring the final whistle brought an overall poor game to an end.
Gravesend were the only one of the bottom six teams to gain any points at the week-end and are now five points clear of the drop zone.
Their nearest rival for safety Tring, have yet to play Staines and this looks to be a guaranteed five points for them from a game they play the week before coming to Gravesend for the crucial match on 6 April.
Team: McMurtrie, Buller, Bishop, Moorey A, Meddings, Gray, Nolan, Cutting, Moorey N, Forsyth, Newman, Ford, Stevens, O’Loughlin, Powdrell. Rep: Klus, White, Meddings W.