The last time that these two teams met was in the 2006 Kent Vase final when Beccehamian ran out winners by a small margin. With both teams struggling this season in the lower half of the league table a similarly close encounter seemed likely, and so it proved for the better part of this match.
For once Old Gs were faced by a young team with a smallish pack, a change from the behemoths of Sheppey and Lordswood that they have had to face in recent weeks. However what the home side lacked in age and size they made up for in attitude and spirit, attributes which were not subdued until late in the game.
Old Gs started with great intent spreading the ball wide to the wings at every opportunity. After a promising run from Matt Johnson, fly half Phil Timewell made a half break to release Dave Boyer. The full back had too much pace for the cover and he touched down in the corner. Timewell, who had an exceptional game, hit the post with the conversion but the challenge had been well and truly laid down. A second try soon followed, probably the best of the day. Again the backs ran their lines and the excellent Matt Holdstock broke free to race to the corner. He was in danger of being tackled into touch but put in a perfectly timed pass to Matt Johnson who crashed over. Timewell again hit the upright but Old Gs were flying, putting such a pace on the ball that Beccs could not deal with it.
A drop in concentration after such a start was probably inevitable and Beccs took advantage. Their No 8 Gareth Baxter rode some tackles to get over the line from a quickly taken tap penalty. Old Gs responded immediately when Timewell placed his kick off perfectly over the Beccs receivers and found touch five metres from the home side’s line. Old Gs young flanker Ben Shove charged down the clearing kick and gained a five metre scrum. The pack upped their effort and drove over the line for Mark Lockwood to touch down, giving Timewell an easy conversion for a 17-5 lead.
Beccehamian were certainly not fazed by their situation and came back to run in two tries of their own. A very strong run by No 8 Baxter again splintered the Old Gs defence which was briefly looking a bit shakey. This was followed by a real backs try, finished when the home full back Neil Page streaking away to score. The conversion was missed but Beccs were now only two points adrift at 17-15 and at this point looked capable of scoring tries from anywhere.
Old Gs dug in and survived many an onslaught in a very uncomfortable period before half time. At one point they managed rather controversially to hold up a certain try over their own line. The half time whistle brought relief and a chance for coach Colin Crow to convince his team that the win was there for the taking. And so it proved with Old Gs shutting their opponents out and racking up twenty two unanswered points by playing some of their best rugby of the season so far.
The performance was not all positive as too many penalties were conceded and after a brief melee Old Gs had to play with fourteen men for ten minutes, but generally it was a very good afternoon’s work. Beccs had two penalty chances to take the lead but missed both, which must have dented their morale. For Old Gs a few dropped passes meant some scoring chances went begging, but more importantly three scoring passes were taken. Acting captain Mark Fenton-Smith sent Ricky Harding on a long run and Timewell did the same for Matt Holdstock only for the attacks to come up short. However this latter move resulted in a lineout five metres from Beccs line. The ball was secured by the ever reliable lineout jump of Matt Coomber and was delivered to Alex Rea, who proved unstoppable as he broke the defensive line at some pace to score.
The conversion made it 24-15 and Beccs were now beginning to crack. The last quarter belonged to Old Gs. There was some strong running from Omar Wahab and Andy Morris which eventually brought a penalty converted by Timewell. The pressure from Old Gs continued and with the pack dominating the set pieces another pushover was on the cards. A Beccs prop stood up to prevent a try and the referee did not hesitate in awarding a penalty try, converted by Timewell to stretch the lead to 34-15. A final well executed try from Ricky Harding, made by Timewell who drew two tacklers before passing, completed an excellent and very encouraging 39-15 away win.
The thirds went to Maidstone with only fourteen men although the hosts kindly lent them a player. He must have enjoyed his afternoon because Old Gs racked up 75 unanswered points in this Merit Table game. Old Gs backs proved just too hot to handle resulting in Raphael Sikwabi scoring three tries, Michael Hodge and Olly Goodchild touching down two apiece, and single tries falling to Sam Fenton, Kevin Spain, Aaron Read and john poulson. Poulson converted ten of the eleven tries.
There is no 1st XV game next week. In two weeks time the 1st XV play local rivals New Ash Green away in the League. The seconds and thirds do have games next week, the seconds at home to Whitstable in a Merit table game and the thirds away at Vigo, also in a Merit table game.