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Gravesend 23-26 Barnes
Having got to within a try of coming back from Guernsey with a victors score, but failing to cross the line with a full quarter of the game to play, it was de ja vu at Rectory Field on Saturday.
Gravesend found they were on the back foot from the off on Saturday, as they went behind on one minute to an easy penalty chance to visiting full-back Warren Gower.
He was on target again with the conversion to a well taken try for Alex Preece as speedy hands saw the interchanges that left the home defence bemused giving Barnes a 0-10 lead on Five minutes.
Chris Meddings had the chance to pull back the lead, but although well struck from fifty metres, his kick went outside the uprights.
Gravesend’s forwards were dictating the pattern of the play on the park, and the visitors found little space to use their useful back division.
Good ball won at a five metre line-out and some concentrated drives ended with Charlie Cutting forcing his way down for the score.
With the kick again going astray, Gs were back at 5-10.
Gravesend were gaining very little reward from some well won possession, and it was failing to release the ball after a tackle that put Gower on the tee to extend the Barnes lead.
Although dominating much of the forward exchanges, Gravesend found no answer to the catch and drive from the line-out that the visitors seemed to have rehearsed well.
Having been stopped short and held up on several drives for the line, it was hooker David Rogers who finally put the ball down on the line which Gower added the extra points to for 5-20.
Straight back into the game and Gs number eight took the ball at pace making ground to near the visitors twenty-two.
The off load to Dave Irvine looked to be the wrong option but as he shipped the ball to the right, quick ball from Gray saw it reach Chris Meddings who out-paced the defence to run round for the try.
A third kicking opportunity went wide of the posts as the score moved on to 10-20.
With Several minutes of injury time added to the first half, there was no let up in the play, and Gs performance was showing an urgency that has been missing of late.
Against the run of play it was loose kicking that brought Barnes back into the Gs twenty-two and yet another penalty chance in front of the posts for Gower, and 10-23.
Another forward’s catch and drive after skipper Ashley Moorey opted for the line-out on the five metre mark.
Again several good pick and drives saw the ball move ever closer to the try line. It was tight-head Jamie Forsyth that added the touch-down for his eleventh of the season and Meddings kick narrowed the score to 17-23.
As the winger waited to take the conversion, the referee showed the yellow card for the sin binning of visiting lock-forward John Chance for persistent infringements.
Gravesend’s continued upgrade on their performance was putting Barnes under pressure at all phases of the game.
Three minutes in and Meddings slotted over a penalty for not releasing the player on the ground.
More and more pressure as Marc Klus combined with his colleagues in the pack to hit the line at pace, rocking the Barnes defence.
A second chance for Meddings followed the shoulder barge of visitor’s fly-half, Gareth Williams-Davis, which saw the latter sin-binned on fifty minutes.
All level at 23-23 with thirty minutes still to play.
An unnecessary penalty chance presented to Gower took the visitors in front again, but it was also they that had to defend their line as Gs rampaged forward.
23-26 behind and camped inside the opposition twenty two it looked just a matter of time for the score to come.
What turned out to be the wrong decision to take a quickly tapped penalty close to the line, but one that would have been applauded had it succeeded, saw the ball lost to defending hands?
The kick and chase was countered as McMurtrie and the inspired skipper Moorey brought the play back to the visitors.
Gary Gray looked for the gap but was unable to get past a solid defence as Barnes shuttered down.
Gravesend ensured that everything was being thrown into the desire to score the winning try, and it was not for a lack of effort that Gs only took a single point from this game.
With the relegation battle at the base of the four National 3 divisions really heating up, Gravesend now find they are four points ahead of their nearest rivals, Tring, who they entertain at Rectory Field in the first fixture in April.
Team: McMurtrie, Meddings C, Bishop, Moorey A, Meddings W, Gray, Nolan, Cutting, Moorey N, Forsyth, Newman, Irvine, Stevens, Ford, Klus. Rep: White, Powdrell, Buller.