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Thurrock 21-23 Gravesend
It was an eighty minute performance that earned Gravesend the points at newly promoted Thurrock in this opening match of the season.
Renewing old rivalries that ended with the formation of the league system, before which the clubs enjoyed up to eight teams playing against each other twice a season, Gravesend were keen to make a successful start to the league programme.
Within two minutes of the start, Thurrock were caught holding on at the tackle in front of their posts. With this early penalty chance, Louis Muncey slotted Gs into the lead 0-3.
From the restart, the ball was carried forward to near the half-way line and from the breakdown, a quick ball to Marc Klus saw the eight make the ground before sending the ball out through the supporting players before Ziggy Stevens powered forward to the line to score, 0-8.
Just two minutes later it was the home sides turn to show what they intended as Frankie Neale joined the line from full back, hand off the attempts to tackle by Gs before racing in to touch down under the bar.
Neale added the conversion to close the gap to 7-8.
There followed some twenty minutes of hard fought play as both xv’s struggled to gain control.
Gravesend forwards were putting together some good drives around the breakdown but were not able to penetrate a well drilled home defence.
For Thurrock, they were never more dangerous than when the ball was in the hands of their three-quarters, and it was again only the Gs determined defence that kept their line secure.
Thirty-two minutes on the clock and the stalemate was broken. A superbly place chip from fly-half Ian Rudgely, saw Joe Hardy win the leap for the bouncing ball as it went up in the goal area, and despite close attention of the defence, manage to ground the ball.
Neale added the conversion to ease Thurrock in front at 14-8.
Gravesend’s forwards were winning the lion’s share of the ball, and kept the pressure on at the break down, and following several pick and drives, scrum half Tony Nolan found space to touch down.
The kick unsuccessful, the teams went in at the break with the home xv 14-13 to the good.
Second half stared much the same with Gravesend’s forwards dominating but when the ball went astray, it was quickly seized by Markus Burcham who made space before sending Nathan Farrell away to score under the bar.
Neale added the extra points to edge further away at 21-13.
Muncey left the field injured to be replaced by Will Meddings, Scott Curley moved to full-back with Meddings taking the spot on the wing.
More of the same as handling errors were blighting both sides. The Gravesend forwards denied the home side any worthwhile possession, while the home defence looked to have their line secure.
James Newman, who until he left the field could be considered the G’ player of the match, was replaced by Ross O’Loughlin at lock.
Chris Meddings slotted over from the tee, when Thurrock added to their high penalty count, to narrow the difference to 21-16.
The good thing about the Gravesend team play is that it lasts for a full eighty minutes and this never say die attitude kept the game near the home twenty-two during the last ten minutes.
Reward for their persistence came not to the forwards, but it was they who had driven the ball and recycled possession some dozen times, and it was fly-half Gary Gray who capped a good performance as he sidestepped through to score by the uprights.
Chris Meddings slotted over the conversion to put Gs in front 21-23.
The last six minutes saw Thurrock throw all they had at the Gs line, but good defending and a steal at the break down eased the pressure.
A kick through and chase for the ball as it went over the try line was won by Curley to touch down.
Skipper Ashley Moorey used a clever ploy as the clock went into overtime. He moved the drop-out wide to near the wing and kicked for the rebound off the Thurrock players.
Regaining possession Gs secured the ball from the ruck and kicked into touch for the final whistle.
A good opening result for the team who entertain South London rivals Old Elthamians for the first home fixture next Saturday.
Team: Louis Muncey, Scott Curley, Chris Meddings, Ashley Moorey (C), James Harris, Gary Gray, Tony Nolan, Nathan Lines, Terry Papworth, Jamie Forsyth, James Newman, Ziggy Stevens, Matthew Powdrell, Dave Reilly, Marc Klus, bench: Ethan White, Will Meddings, Ross O’Loughlin.