Thurrock 31 v 46 Westcombe Park
THURROCK narrowly lost out in a magnificent match at Oakfield on Saturday to table-topping Westcombe Park. Thurrock had beaten the Kent side twice last season and were eyeing the title themselves this year. Unfortunately the unprecedented run of injuries sustained ny the home side has long put paid to that ambition. However,this was an opportunity to shrug off the demons of the previous week and put on a performance for the Thurrock faithful.
With a healthy crowd and freshening wind Thurrock entered the fray with a”spring in their stride.” Good early work by Tom Pool, Charlie Russo and Joss Nunn saw Thurrock drive deep into the Westcombe Park half and after Anthony Catchpole had latched on to a drive,the effervescent Tom Pool plunged over close to the posts. Barrand had no difficulty adding the extras from close range.
It wasn’t long befor Park got in on the action. They have in Dan Hamilton a winger who is capable of playing at a much higher level and when he was released via a miss move involving Harry Sansbury and Max Wilkins,the flying 14 outpaced the cover defence to score in the corner. Harvey Young failed with the difficult conversion to leave Thurrock with a two point lead.
Thurrock almost extended this lead when fine breaks by Dan Stone and Dylan Fearon nearly led to scores. Dan Stone was having a fine game at 10 on his debut in that position.
The former Campion schoolboy had played most of his youth rugby at fly-half and relished the opportunity of stepping in for injured Intrrnational Sam Stanley. Suddenly just when Thurrock looked the more likely to score,a dropped pass allowed Dan Hamilton to pick up and sprint 75 metre to give the visitors the lead. There seemed to be no stopping this man as he wreaked havoc every time he received the ball.
Once again the Thurrock spirit shone through like a beacon.Barrand planted a penalty deep into Park territory and from the resulting line-out it seemed like the whole team joined in the drive to put Dan Ulph over for an inspirational try. A tricky conversion was thumped over by Barrand and Thurrock went in at half-time with a well-deserved lead.
This had been a highly entertaining first half which had thrilled the large hone crowd.
The visitors kicked off with a strong wind behind them and the ball reached Earl Gorman. The stocky centred stormed upfield making 30 metres before being hauled down. Sadly Westcombe Park were awarded a penalty and smashed the ball deep into Thurrock territory and this would prove Thurrock’s undoing and the tale for the rest of the game. Park scored their own try from the next move and Harvey Young consolidated their lead with a long range penalty.
Thurrock were not to be denied for long though and after a neat break from Dan Stone,joss Nunn found himself on the left wing. A quick side-step and burst of acceleration put him outside Bryan Young and a 40 metre effort saw him surge over in the corner for a wonderful try to put Thurrock right back into contention at 19 points to 20!
“Cometh the hour,cometh the man!” Dan Hamilton was having an incredible game and just when his team needed him most,there he was again! Joining the attack on half-way,he accelerated through a gap,stepped the cover defence for another brilluant try to add to his extensive collection of gems! When the ball fell off the tee at conversion time,Harvey Young cool as a cucumber,picked up the rolling ball and dropped a goal,quite remarkable! Unfortunately the reliable Jake Barrand,another left winger having a great season,was helped from the field with a leg injury to add to Thurrock’s woes this season.
From the kick off Park kicked deep into Thurrock’s half and,after a knock-on, scrum-half Lewis Headland threw an outrageous dummy and strolled over unchallenged.
Thurrock then seemed to have lost territorial advantage with Park running out of defence after a quick tap penalty.Thurrock have their own try scoring ace and Joss Nunn suddenly handed off an opponent sped through a gap and scored another tremendous try. This was becoming a titanic battle,but guess what? It was that irrepressible man once more,Dan Hamilton. Given space on the outside, he outflanked the defence to score a great try in the corner and marginally win the contest for man of the match over Joss Nunn!
Thurrock still showed plenty of zest and ,as the ball broke loose in the Thurrock half,Niall Clifford picked up at full-back and with a genuine burst of pace ,broke the line. Showing fine cadence and a sharp step,Clifford thundered over for a fitting finale. He has slotted into full-back with confidence and been a real find this season.
Eventually there was no stopping Westcombe Park on the day,but Thurrock had played a huge part in what must have been one of the best games at Oakfield for many a season.
Westcombe Park sit deservedly at the top of the table with Thurrock knowing,with a clean bill of health ,they would have sat proudly alongside. If there were any neutrals they would have found this a heart-warming contest between two evenly matched teams.