Dartfordians 9 Gillingham Anchorians 20
Kent Vase Cup Final 29th April 2012
In terrible conditions Darts headed to Medway to face deserved Kent 1 champions in the Kent Vase Cup Final in good spirits despite their loss to Shoots the week before. Despite a couple of late changes darts were confident they could perform better than the previous two fixtures against Anchs and end the season on a high note. It was obvious that this would be a physical encounter and Darts were in good shape in the first quarter winning good ball at scrimmage time and in the loose where their lighter faster back row managed to turn over some early ball. Darts unfortunately have had an Achilles heal this season with their lineout which they just can’t get right and due to this couldn’t keep the pressure on Gillingham for a concerted period of time and this allowed the excellent Anchs back row to drive into darts and clear their lines. Darts eventually were rewarded with a penalty which was converted by Tony Mead. This pattern was kept up for 30 minutes with Darts slightly in the ascendancy but with neither side really showing any great penetration. Darts loose head prop Matt Randall was having a stormer in the tight and was causing the Anchs scrum a lot of problems which was promising for the smaller pack. Unfortunately a clash of heads saw Matt knocked unconscious forcing him to leave the field. This seemed to be spur for Anchs who started to put Darts under a lot of pressure pushing them deep into their own half and should have scored. Darts were defending bravely and keeping the driving Anchs forwards at bay and this along with a number of wrong decisions by Anchs kept Darts with a slender lead. Eventually the pressure began to tell and Darts were conceding penalties and eventually from one of these Anchs took the 3 points to level the match. Gillingham were getting into gear and using their back row well to try and punch holes in the Darts defence but all to no avail. Darts then found some extra strength and pushed Anchs back into their half and just prior to half time they won good ball in front of the posts which was fed to Tony Mead who dropped a goal to regain the lead for Darts. Unfortunately for Darts one of their star players Joe Bowmer pulled a hamstring in the move leading up to the score and had to leave the field and force Darts into more reorganization with Mike Briggs taking over at Fly Half and Tony Mead moving into the centre.
The second half started with Gillingham putting Darts under a lot of pressure , partly due to their strong forward play and partly because Darts were not controlling the ball well enough. There was a lot of effort from both sides but Gillingham were the more accomplished at this stage of the game with darts now not winning any lineout ball and Gillingham using their lineout to great effect. Eventually a lineout inside the Darts 22 saw Gillingham start a terrific rolling maul which saw them score near the posts and convert to take the lead. Darts came back again at Anchs and were awarded a penalty which was converted by Tony Mead to take the score to 10-9 to Anchs. Anchs continued to use their back row to great effect both defensively and offensively and Darts were struggling to get any phases put together to allow them to release their backs but did get another penalty which was very narrowly missed. This would have put Darts in front but Gillingham responded with their best period of the match putting Darts o the back foot. It was testament to Darts that when a penalty was conceded on the left hand side of the field Anchs took the successful shot at goal to move them 4 points ahead. Darts were tiring and couldn’t get into Gillingham’s half and from more good Anchs lineout ball another driving maul saw Gillingham score what were the winning points to go 20-9 ahead. Darts did come back at Anchs for the last 10 minutes but the defence was excellent and Darts couldn’t make another breakthrough and Gillingham ended up deserved winners to complete a fantastic season for them. Man of the match for Darts was vice captain Liam Bowmer whose work rate was fantastic and was pushed all the way by Alex Vousden and Joe Wheeler who battled hard in the back row against some big strong opponents
Darts now look forward to continuing to work hard for next season and hope that another year’s experience will see their young squad develop well and compete again for promotion. A good season which fell just short but with many colts making their debuts this season the future looks bright and the club remains buoyant.