Friday, February 23, 2024

Rugby: Thurrock blown away by Tonbridge

Thurrock 19 v 39 Tonbridge Juddians

ON a sunny afternoon with a chill wind blowing it was TJs who scored first with a Luke Makris penalty. This lead encouraged TJs to become adventurous and they threw the ball about at every opportunity. But the passes were not always wise and did not always stick.  Thurrock, benefiting from TJ’s lack of continuity, began to have the lion’s share of possession. Together with a spell of rather languid tackling this allowed the home side to mount a strong and prolonged attack which ended when winger Jake Barrand scored an unconverted try in the left corner.

Now it seemed it was time for some loose play by Thurrock. TJ’s Dan Hawkes intercepted a long, speculative pass which, but for some rather frenetic and unsuccessful attempts to off-load out of the solid Thurrock tackling, might have brought a try. In fact, TJs lost the ball at the ruck and the danger was gone. However, from a subsequent line-out and drive, the ball was let out slickly to the backs and skipper, Jon McMahon, went through a gap to score under the posts. Luke Makris converted to give TJs a 5 – 10 lead.

Shortly afterwards, TJ’s ambitious passing game actually paid off again with Brad Tibbits and Harry Salter combining to put full-back Adam Danckert over in the corner for an unconverted try. TJs were settling down and more was to come. Some ten minutes before half-time, after the forwards had produced a number of powerful drives into the opposition, Jon McMahon scored his second try in the corner which Luke Makris converted with a fine kick.

The rest of the half was pretty even and there were no more scores which left TJs with a comfortable 5 – 22 advantage at the break. This score reflected the fact that TJs had taken just some of their chances. They had dropped and lost the ball, often in the face of some good Thurrock defence, when with a little more care with the pass they might well have scored more. Thurrock for their part had shown that they could rattle TJ’s defence and score but that they too were liable to make passing and catching errors in the tricky wind.

It was Thurrock who scored first at the beginning of the second period when centre Jono Skelton scored in the right hand corner after a great run run from winger Nat Farrell and full-back Frankie Neale converted from wide out. With the score now standing at 12 – 22 TJ’s position did not look quite so secure and something had to be done to sharpen up their game.

The opportunity came when a long kick-ahead by Thurrock went dead and from the scrum-back TJs, at the second attempt, won a good ball and moved it quickly to the right. Adam Danckert came into the line from full-back and made a good break. Chris McNamara took his pass but was tackled just short of the line. It looked very much as though the move was finished but McNamara threw the ball back over his shoulder as he fell. It was gathered by Danckert who dived through for his second and TJ’s fourth and bonus try. There was no conversion but a certain degree of comfort in their lead had been restored.

Some six minutes later TJs stretched the lead after they stole Thurrock’s ball at the ruck. This time Luke Makris found the gap and broke through. Jon McMahon went with him and took the pass to score his third try which was not converted.
From time to time during the match TJs were a little less that convincing in their commitment to the tackle. Thurrock’s full back Frankie Neale is also a talented runner and this combination allowed him to dodge and side-step his way through to TJ’s line from half-way. He converted the try, Thurrock’s third, and at this stage it looked very much as though the home side could go on to score a bonus point for their fourth. But it was not to be.

TJs had the last word and once more Adam Danckert was in the mix. His kick for position took TJs deep into Thurrock’s 22. The home side was unable to catch and clear the ball from the ensuing line-out. TJs worked well to win the ruck and sent the ball out to the left where Harry Salter on the wing had a clear run-in to score.
Makris converted to take the score to 19 – 39 and so it remained for the final seven or so minutes of the match.
TJs were pleased with the win – which keeps them in fourth position in the league – even though at times their play and their management of it were untidy. Thurrock at times did not look like a team heading for relegation and they may well make an early return to National League Three London and South East. 

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