Another great performance from Darts to win the league
With the weather again looking to disrupt
With the weather again looking to disrupt this fixture Dartfordians were pleased to find conditions were fine although bitterly cold. This was an important match for both teams as Darts were keen to continue their unbeaten run and be crowned champions and Hove hoping to secure their 2nd place in the league.Both teams were having to make changes to their line ups but the spectators were eagerly awaiting what was expected to be a tough and exciting encounter. Darts started the better and had the home team pinned inside their own 22. The team looked confident and their structure really sound using both forwards and backs to try and penetrate what was a strong and well organised defence. The pressure began to tell when hove gave away a couple of penalties and Darts kicked for the lineout and after two attempts used their driving maul well to allow Matt Randall to go over for the first try. 0-5. It was all Darts at this stage but determined play from Hove saw them force a penalty and kick for the corner. This was their first foray into the Darts half and a good lineout saw them move thee ball well in the backs and then another penalty gave them the opportunity to show how good their driving maul was. It didn't disappoint and they scored in the corner followed buy an excellent conversion and take the lead. 7-5. This didn't deter the visitors who got back to work to drive the home team back into their own half. Skipper and flanker Si Briggs was playing in the centre due to injuries in the squad but it wasn't apparent that he was playing out of position and a great break by him nearly resulted in a try for Jonny but again it was sturdy defence that kept the visitors at bay. Darts appeared to be sharper in most phases of the game and their pressure stopped Hove from getting any momentum or flow to their game and with the pack putting on tremendous pressure at scrum time play was kept within the home half. Ollie Edwards having moved to full back made a great counter and made a great wide pass to Ashley Hadler who skipped inside two defenders to score Darts' second try. and regain the lead. 7-10. Darts were looking pretty comfortable with and without the ball and stepped up the pressure which stretched the Hove defence and they were unfortunate to have a player sin binned for a late tackle which gave Darts the opportunity to put on even more pressure. A penalty was kicked to the corner and another line out drive was converted into a try with hooker Luke Golding scoring. Jonny converted 7-17. This was the score at halftime and everything was going to plan for the visitors.
The match was delayed when the referee was injured in an accidental collision but thankfully he was able to continue. Darts were still pretty dominant in the scrum with Chappers, Cookers and Alex Vousden using their excellent technique to stop Hove getting any momentum and it could have been really damaging if the Hove number 6 hadn't been so good at clearing up the untidy ball. Kenny Lee and Smiler were now getting more space and having such mobile ball playing 2nd rows gave Darts many options and they were always backed up by the back row trio of Matt Randall, Joe Wheeler and Luke Golding. Injury to Matt saw experienced Liam Bowmer take the field and he was immediately in the game using his power and footwork to take the ball on. Continued pressure pushed play back into the Hove 22 and after numerous phases the ball was moved out to Brench who then gave it to Ollie who went over for the bonus point try and extend the lead to 7-22. It was difficult day to be in the backs but both teams were trying to play expansive rugby but it was the intensity and line speed of the Darts defence that stopped Hove from getting their normal flowing back play going. The combination of the Briggs brothers in the middle gave Darts strength both in attack and defence but it was tough to get the ball out wide in space for Ash and Brench to show their abilities as often as the team would have liked. Steve Garrett and Tom Selley both came on showing the strength in depth at the club and when awarded a penalty Jonny slotted the kick to extend the lead to 7-25. Hove were not finished and they hit back forcing darts back and when they had a penalty they kicked deep into the 22. A good line out then saw them commit the Darts defence and a great kick wide saw the defence outnumbered and when the ball bounced into the Hove player it was a well worked try in the corner. A great conversion from the touchline closed the gap to 14-25 which was the final score.
A great performance from Darts against a strong physical side who have deserved their position in the league but the determination and discipline of the side never allowed the home side a real opportunity to put Darts under any concerted pressure. While any of the players could have been given the Man of the Match award it was decided that skipper Si Briggs deserved the accolade for an outstanding all round game.
Head Coach Bob Hussey was pleased with the performance and effort from all players this season at training and during matches and wanted to thank all the coaches Alex, Gary , Cliff and Whalo for their hard work every week, Sarah and her team of Physios for keeping the players fit throughout what has been a tough and physical season, Kevin for all the work he does in managing the team and making sure everything is in place allowing the players to concentrate on the game and Steve for running touch each week. The coaches and players also want to thank all the supporters who have watched home and away and have spurred the team on when things have been tough.
As Director of Rugby it has been fantastic watching the team grow over the last few years and with the team still being very young I am hopeful of this continuing. Next season will be tough in London 1 which is the highest level the club has played at but it is great that we have the opportunity to see how we can compete. Thanks to all the coaches and players for the terrific effort you have put in this season.This is the culmination of a huge amount of work carried out by many people within the club from the management committee to all the coaches and helpers who turn out week in week out working with our Mini, Junior and Academy sections without which we wouldn't have the quality of young players we have turning out every weekend.
Next weekend the team travel to Haywards Heath for what will another tough fixture.