Needing a bonus point win, at Hove, to bring the league title back to Gravesend, the opposition made sure that Gs had to work for every point they scored. At the final whistle a workmanlike victory 3-33 with five tries ensured the title came back with the town club.
It was yet another of those quick fire starts from Gs that saw Tony Nolan put the first score on the board after just three minutes. In typical “poacher” style, he first stood his defender up, sold him a dummy, with little room rounded the defence to race in to touch down.
Ever trusty Miki Zanirato added the conversion from a metre in from the touch line, for 0-7.
From the drop out, Gs were quickly back on the attack, but the Hove XV were not rolling over and defended well, running second phase ball straight back into Gs territory.
Having now to defend Gs were caught coming in from the wrong side and the home fly-half, Gareth Davies, was happy to take the points as he slotted over the penalty kick to bring the score to 3-7.
Both teams were making more handling errors than they would have liked, but it was Gs that had the ability to clean up after the mistakes, that kept them in control.
Several break out attempts by the home side, with Rhys Sawford at eight combining well with scrum-half Keiron Robertson, to get the ball to the speedy three-quarter line, but they were hit by a solid wall defence that prevented any score.
As the quarter mark passed, some superb handling inside the Hove twenty-two, as forwards and backs combined to recycle possession, was finished off by club skipper Ashley Moorey on his second game back from injury.
Zanirato added the extras to move the score on to 3-14.
Gravesend found that they were not getting all their own way at the set scrummage as the home pack absorbed the Gs push, and on their own ball had Gs going backwards on several occasions.
Good clean ball from the line-out, taken off the top by Tom Bird and James Newman, gave Gs options in taking the game forward. Quick release to the backs, where Gary Gray was enjoying some line breaking runs, or through the forwards as Forsyth, Cuttings, Klus and Stevens battered into the home pack.
With Gs ball winning back row prominent throughout the tight play, and cleaning up in the open, it was fitting that Adam Aigbokhae was on hand to score after twisting his way through the Hove defence this try taking the gap to 3-19.
Hove again came back at the town side as full back Sam Whiting joined the line to make inroads into Gs territory, and both wing three-quarters showed good pace outside, but always found a last Gravesend defender ready to block their progress before the line was reached.
A disallowed try when the player picked up from in front of the kicker let Gs of the hook just before the break and the score remained unchanged at the interval.
Good end to end rugby continued into the third quarter, Gray cleaned some ground passes as he led his backs on the attack and was unlucky not to get his name on the board as the ball bounced badly for him after chipping over the rush defence.
Hove’s attacks continued and when they looked certain to add to their tally, they were held up over the line. Gs then disrupted their charge for the line and turn over ball was cleared down field.
One could see that the players from both clubs were enjoying the afternoon sunshine with the game played throughout in a good humour despite some battering charges from Sox Stevens, and perhaps it was the smile on his face that forced the opposition to stand off.
On fifty-five minutes having started the initial move forward, and after several phases of recycling Sox was again in situ to cross the white line for a bonus point try. Zanirato was accurate as ever from the tee to make it 3-26.
Gs were frustrated by the spoiling tactics of the Sussex club, and were finding it difficult to play with any real flowing movement, Temi Okenla was left looking for any opportunities on the left wing but none were coming his way.
A huge catch and drive down the left went a full twenty metres before it was pulled down. Advantage being played to Gs, Zanirato made a break through the line and when he was pulled down swift moves by Meddings, Gray and Heywood set up Nolan on the right for the elusive wing to cross for his second of the afternoon.
Four minutes remaining on the clock and Zanirato’s kick from the tee brought the final tally to 3-33.
After the match, Jamie Forsyth said "I asked the players to wrestle the league from my Kung Fu grip. They responded and are now tasting the Gravy".
Team: Curley, Okenla, Meddings C, Moorey, Goss, Gray, Zanirato, Cuttings, Klus, Forsyth, Newman, Comfort, Bird, Aigbokhae, Stevens S, reps; Luck, Meddings W, Haywood.