THURROCK’S 1st XV travelled to Havant on Saturday, the scene of one of their worst defeats in years following last season’s 86-14 defeat but have shown plenty of times this season that they are a much-improved outfit and started the better of the two sides.
Having elected to play with the elements, Thurrock started to dominate field position early on when a raking kick from Sam Stanley saw him kick a free kick from his own 22 to the home sides 5-meter line. The back row of Charlie Russo, Tom Pool & Rob Murphy started making strong runs and with some strong defence, the home side were forced into conceding several penalties. Jake Barrand attempted 2 early penalty attempts, both behind half way and was unlucky with both before almost opening the try scoring.
Unfortunately, he just dropped the ball over the line as he went to ground whilst in contact. Barrands day was then cut short following a horrible looking hand injury that would later require surgery, meaning T’s top points scorer now faces sometime on the sidelines.
Soon after Barrands injury, T’s took the lead. From a scrum on the home side’s 22-meter line, Number 8 Rob Murphy used his blistering pace to burst through the opposition’s defence before being stopped by Havants Fullback. Luckily, Alex Jones was on hand to score his 2nd try of the season and with Sam Stanley slotting the conversion, Ts had a deserved 7-0 lead. T’s continued to retain possession and Stanley was just wide with another Penalty attempt as well as just pulling a long-range drop goal wide of the upright.
Havant than showed how dangerous they could be on their new 4G pitch as they scored a length of the field try. Another long kick from Stanley was fielded by the home sides winger but a poor pass in field seemed to allow the Thurrock defence to press and regain possession. The home side had other ideas and managed to get out of trouble when they sucked Thurrock’s defence in before spinning the ball wide to their outside Centre. He was able to get on the outside of Jake Bedding, now on the wing before feeding his fullback to run in for a good score. The conversion brought the score level at 7 apiece.
Havant were soon on the score board again as a loose pass by T’s as they were on the attack fell to the home sides hooker. T’s know how dangerous he can be from previous encounters and he showed his skill with a neat pick up and offload to his winger, who outpaced the covering defence for another converted score.
T’s continued to play some flowing rugby and Stanley was soon able to cut open the home sides defence with a trademark break, however this time he looked for support instead of going alone and the pass unluckily didn’t go to hand. Things then went from bad to worse as Captain Charlie Russo picked up his 3rd yellow card in 3 games as he made what looked like a perfect steal, only for the referee to disagree. This was to be the last action of the 1st half as Thurrock looked to bounce back after the break.
The 2nd half started much like the 1st with T’s keeping hold of possession and using their forwards to punch holes in the home defence. Somehow, this tactic led the Havants 3rd try. Thurrock moved the ball wide to Blaine Kidd who took the game into the home team’s 22. With the ball at the back of the ruck, Havants flanker shot from what looked like a clear offside and kicked the ball from the base before scooping the ball up and running the length of the field. Rob Murphy’s ‘never say die attitude’ saw him pull off an amazing try saving tackle. Thurrock repelled a few more attacks before a 5-meter scrum saw Havants scrum half scoot over for a well taken try to take the score to 19-7 to Havant.
T’s came back again as they worked their way towards Havants try line before seeing the home sides fly half sent to the sin bin for killing the ball. Looking to make the most of their numerical advantage, T’s kicked to the corner to try and reduce the score. Unfortunately, they were penalized at the lineout and this enabled home team to clear their lines. From the resulting lineout, Havant scored their best try of the day as they created a strong platform from the lineout before their Centre cut through T’s midfield and offloaded to his winger to grab his 2nd and Havants bonus point score.
Again, T’s continued their monopoly of the ball, but the home team defended admirably before being reduced to 13 men with a second yellow card for numerous penalties. The pressure almost told as from a defensive line out on their line, a loose throw fell into the arms of Tom Pool, who was unlucky in his attempt to ground the ball to see another attempt go amiss for T’s.
To Havants credit, they showed great heart when down to 13 and stretched their lead when their fly half slotted a penalty to take the score to 27-7.
With Havant back to a full complement of players and having also increased their lead, you could have forgiven T’s for dropping their heads. The boys however kept plugging away and were rewarded when Chris Shorter picked a great line off the back of a ruck to crash over. Stanley missed the conversion and the game finished 27-12 to Havant
A bitter pill to swallow with Thurrock dominating possession and territory but a lesson to learn from Havant who took every opportunity that came their way. They have shown why T’s players regard them as one of the best teams in this league following our 4 games against them over the past 2 seasons, but we can take credit having created numerous openings, just a little luck and some wastefulness was against us on the day as well as the injury to Jake Barrand. The league takes a break this week with the start of the 6 Nations and with the likes of Club Captain Reece Durrance, Joss Nunn, Brad Retigan, Ben Stanley, Dan Stone & Darryl Worster returning from injury, the squad will look to build on a solid season so far and push on in the final 8 games of the campaign.
T’s next game is on the 9th of February as they host Dartfordians for their 1st visit to Oakfield in front of a VP crowd with kick off at 3pm