Sluggish start costs Reeds
OLD DARTFORDIANS 21 REEDS WEYBRIDGE 15
Dartfordians have had some desperately close games this season, evidenced by the fact that they have the highest tally of losing bonus points in the league. But they knew that unless they could win this final league game and secure a four try bonus-point they would face relegation, they came so close to achieving their target but a resolute performance from a committed Reeds side prevented Darts for getting that fourth try. Town sides always have a big set of forwards, and Darts have some of the biggest and they could run, pass and tackle as well. First though they made their presence felt via a series of well executed rolling mauls that had Reeds in full retreat. These put Reeds under all sorts of pressure in that first quarter, pinning Reeds down in to their own half, winning possession from the breakdowns and driving play. Darts secured ball from a five-metre lineout, quick hands along the back line, and the winger strode in for the first converted try of the day. Reeds were having a hard time in the tight scrums as the huge Darts pack shunted them backwards, they didn’t lose possession against the head but Reeds backs were getting ball on the retreat, the Darts backs were up on Reeds three quarter line, charged down a clearance kick, a kindly bounce and Darts were under the sticks for a seven pointer. It was fourteen-point lead and had Reeds had further problems when they lost their talismanic centre Billy Maddock, young Will Jones the winger and Simon Fozard, their key lineout man to injury in quick succession. This was a torrid situation for Reeds and it was here that skipper Herbie Finn earned his Man of the Match award not only for his outstanding work rate around the park including some eyewatering tackles, but his inspirational leadership qualities when the chips were down. Reeds fight back came from a piece of brilliance from Matt Stevenson their young scrum half helped by Josh Brown, on a rare visit into Darts territory. Brown broke close to the break down catching the guards napping and deftly offloaded to Stevenson who sprinted through the gap to score. The regulation kick went wide but Reeds were back on the horse at 14 – 5. Just on the stroke of half time Darts launched another promising attack on the Reeds line, arguably the biggest forward of a very large pack headed for the line at full pace, if you could choose one man from Reeds defence to stop a full on charge it would be Reeds flanker Michael Wasko and he was in position, it was certainly the bravest tackle of the day, maybe of the season, but it kept the line secure and Reeds were just nine points adrift at the change round.
Reeds were in defensive mode for the early part of the second half, but they came right back into the game when they forced a lineout in Darts red zone, clean collection from Finn, a drive for the line and Reeds arch poacher, George Corner, dived over for an unconverted try. 14- 10. Darts were chasing that four try bonus point and they collected their third when they drove play up field and rumbled over from short distance to make it 21 – 10. Ten minutes on the clock and there was still time for either side to win the game. But it was Reeds who had the better of the action and the territory in those closing stages and when Josh Brown the athletic prop forward bulldozed his way over the line from a clever line out play. Again, another regulation kick missed but it was now 21 – 15 with six minutes to go and it seemed just possible Reeds could nick the game. They came agonisingly close with a series of attacks on the Darts line winger Jonathan Lovett uncharacteristically lost the ball in the act of scoring when being tackled. A huge partisan crowd roared on their side to collect that fourth score but Reeds defence denied Darts that relegation beating try.
Nigel Connell Reeds Director of rugby commented afterwards that Darts ‘had thrown the kitchen sink at us, but Reeds outstanding defensive qualities had stopped Dartfordians from achieving that fourth try’. He went on to say ‘that Reeds third place in the highest league that Reeds have ever played is a remarkable achievement particularly given the backdrop of injuries to key players and which has consistently hampered Reeds cross the course of the entire season’
Man of the Match, Skipper Herbie Finn
Team – Josh Brown / Rhys Day / Lennon Day / Shannon Fullen / Luke Edwards / Cameron Goodwin / Herbie Finn (capt) / George Corner / Michael Wasko / Simon Fozard / Matt Stevenson / Jonny Rogers / Joe Moriarty / Billy Maddock / Will Jones / Jonathan Lovett / Ethan Taylor / Marcus Clark / Jonathan Lack.
GS 12 March 23
Gs 07860 394687
Reeds now turn their attention to the Cup and where they will play in the second tier of the competition the draw being held on 20 March with first game being played on 1 April, with Reeds 2nd XV also having 2 critical games in the intervening period.