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CS Rugby 1863 53-37 Gravesend
Anybody seeing the final score line following Saturday’s game at Duke’s Meadow, could get the impression that Gravesend weren’t up to the standard of play at this level, but they would be wrong.
They played all but two minutes of the last quarter of the game with fourteen men on the park and with just five minutes remaining were just two points adrift at 39-37 and still challenging for the result.
Tremendous efforts throughout the game saw the whole pack playing their part in securing the ball and taking it forward before releasing the backs on some well marshalled attacks.
Gs went behind to an early try from “stag” Chris Endersby, but were matching play for play against the large home pack and by the end of the first quarter were on level terms after Ross O’Loughlin touched down between the posts.
Chris Meddings lined the conversion up in the middle of the uprights, but too close to the line and stood as his kick was charged down. Hopefully this error will not feature again this season.
There was much going on in the loose play during the game, with players handling on the ground and continually straying offside, and while these infringements were going unpunished, Gs were coming off worse from this.
James Houston added a penalty to the early try to edge ahead at 8-5 then put over a successful conversion following a try from centre Stuart Peel.
Not to be intimidated by this Gs were soon back on the offensive and were driving forward and recycling close to the five metre line before O’loughlin dived over for his second of the afternoon. Meddings made certain of his kick to narrow the difference to 15-12 at the break.
Within a minute of the restart, pressure on the home defence saw half the team caught offside as the full-back, Brendan Ward attempted to kick from the goal area.
Meddings slotted over to level the scores 15-15.
So much ball going loose at the break-down, coupled with numerous unpunished off-sides was keeping the home XV on the front foot.
But the rule is that you have to play to the whistle, and continue to put in the tackles, and Gs failed to do this as Ward made the most of his low centre of gravity as he eluded the tackles to run in under the bar.
Houston added the conversion to stretch the “stags” lead to 22-15.
Gs forwards were constantly putting the home side under pressure, and good turn-over ball from the drop-out went to scrum-half Tony Nolan, his chip into space from the outside of the boot caught the defence on the wrong foot.
The home full back raced back to cover the position, but fumbled the ball leaving Nolan to dribble over for the try. The conversion went wide, but the scores had closed to 22-20.
The play was getting scrappy and poor refereeing was spoiling the game for the thirty players on the park, who were making every effort to keep some semblance of a decent game of rugby and some enjoyment for the spectators.
Houston slotted over his second penalty before the scores were level again as Alex Buller chased through to touch down. A successful conversion from wide-out from the boot of Meddings put Gs in front 25-27.
The closeness of the scoring reflected the sometimes sloppy loose play from both XVs, and was not helped at all from the sometimes dubious decisions on the park.
A further Meddings penalty brought the difference to 25-30 in favour of Gravesend, and this was again brought about by the industrious efforts of the forwards.
Plenty of ball being moved along the line as Gs tried to play their expansive style of rugby, but the home defence stood firm to the many assaults on their line.
A penalty try awarded after three transgressions around the Gs five metre line, also saw the sending to the sin bin of scrum-half Nolan on sixty-two minutes.
With the advantage of the extra man, the “stags” edged away when Houston ran in following a scoring pass from James Porter, before adding another conversion for 39-30.
As the ten minute period in the sin-bin slipped on to thirteen, Gs struck back and with the forwards in control inside the home five metre line, it was Jamie Forsyth that touched down for the third week running.
Chris Meddings slotted over from the tee to keep the outcome in the balance as the scores moved to 39-37.
Five minutes remaining on the clock, Gs were back on the attack and quickly moved ball saw them cutting through the defence, unfortunately after skipper Moorey had passed the ball he was brought down by a late tackle before coming in for a series of hits whilst on the ground.
In an effort to prevent it going too far, fly-half Gary Gray raced over to pull them apart but his arm thrown around the instigator of the problem was deemed to be a punch or strike at the player. Unfortunately, as the player running in to join the melees, he was shown a red card.
This was just another of the instances where the official was not up to the task on the park. Had he been more aware of what was happening around the park he may not have spoiled what could have been a good afternoon’s rugby.
With just four minutes remaining and from a position of advantage, which looked to be turning into a scoring opportunity, Gs were now on the back-foot. From the penalty the ball was moved quickly wide for Ross Yiend to touch-down, Houston adding the extras for 46-37.
From the drop-out a long kick back into Gs twenty-two was first fumbled before it reach Scott Curly. The full-back began a run from defence, chipped over the advancing home attack and as he raced for the ball, was taken to the ground.
Another event that went unpunished and with the ball now loose, “stags” made the most of the extra man advantage for Yiend to cross the line again with Houston taking his personal tally to 23 for the afternoon.
As someone that watches rugby most week-ends, from top-level down to level five, one can’t help feeling that there is a desperate need for some continued programme of training for improvement for referees at the lower level (if there is one, it isn’t apparent) to help ensure that games are not spoiled by the appointed official.
Next week: Captains Day lunch when the opposition is Guernsey, K.O. 14.15.
Team: Scott Curley, Adam Bishop, Chris Meddings, Ashley Moorey (C), Alex Buller, Gary Gray, Tony Nolan, Charlie Cutting, Warren McKee, Jamie Forsyth, Dave Irvine, Ziggy Stevens, Ross O’Loughlin, Dave Riley, Matthew Powdrell. Rep: Sam Brice, Neil Hodkinson.
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