1st XV bow out of National Cup
Old G's defeated by Bec Old Boys in Junior Vase
Old Gravesendians bowed out of the National Junior Vase at the first stage on Saturday, with a disappointing performance in South West London.
Fielding a side with many changes from the side that won at Southwark the previous weekend, coach Andy Miller was keen to try out new players and new combinations. Joe Martin and James Heaver came into the starting pack, with Chris Bassett, Mark Fenton-Smith, Jamie Potter and James Hood coming into the backline.
Old G’s preparations suffered a blow just before kick-off, when Mike Hodge suffered a pulled hamstring in the final stages of the warm up, resulting in a quick backline reshuffle.
One of the Old Boys big problems in the league this season has been their first half performances and this showed its face again in the Junior Vase. Bec Old Boys flew out of the blocks, putting their big runners in positions to run hard at Old G’s. Bec’s almost took the lead in the first minute, but the ball slipped out of their players grasp whilst in the act of touching the ball down.
Bec’s didn’t have to wait long for their score though. On 10 minutes, Bec’s threw a cut-out pass which stretched Old G’s back line. Despite looking like they had cover, somehow the Bec’s centre found a gap and went round under the posts. The easy conversion made it 7-0.
The Old G’s pack, used to being smaller than their opposition, were being intimidated by their London opponents. Bec’s physicality at the breakdown, along with some fairly liberal refereeing of the ruck laws, saw Old G’s unable to retain possession or supply any ball of note to the back line.
One thing that Old G’s have been able to rely on this season is the boot of Greg Humphreys. With Bec’s giving away penalties often, it wasn’t long until Humphreys kicked his first penalty of the game. This should have been the kick start that the Old Boys needed, but Bec’s hit back again.
Straight from a lineout, the Bec’s centre picked a fine line to cut through Old G’s back line. With the defence covering he released his winger who slid in for the try in the corner. An excellent conversion increased the lead to 14-3.
Two further penalties from the impressive Bec’s goal kicker made the half time score 20-3 in what was not a great spectacle of a half. For the second week in succession, stern words were required at half time.
With Old G’s now playing down a considerable slope, they were able to set up much better field possession, with the boot of Chris Bassett. The pack had obviously listened to captain Frazer Barnes, as they looked a completely different outlet in the second half. Lock, Joe Martin put in an excellent case for more 1st XV starts with some fine ball carrying and high tackle count, whilst the back row of James Heaver, Phil Costley and Andy Morris made a number of indents into Bec’s territory.
Once thing that did not change from the first half was the penalty count. Almost each time OGs ventured into the red zone, the referee would penalise Bec’s. Humphreys kicked an early penalty to reduce the deficit to 20-6, but from that point Old G’s turned down the 3 points, looking for more.
After a number of attempts, Old G’s finally got their reward 15 minutes in the second half. A penalty was kicked to the corner. A textbook catch and drive was set up and the Old G’s shoved their larger opponents over the line for the try. Flanker James Heaver came up with the ball. The conversion was missed, but the game was alive again at 20-11.
With new confidence, Old G’s started to run at Bec Old Boys. Veteran centre, Mark Fenton-Smith made a fine break up the middle, only to be halted by a high tackle and Full Back Chris Johnson was coming more into the game with his strong running.
Once again, Bec’s conceded a penalty in the red zone, but this time Humphreys took the 3 points to reduce it to a 1 score game, 20-14.
With Bec’s not really being able to make too much headroom into Old Gs territory, the one thing that they did have was a superb goal kicker. Almost as soon as Old G’s had made the game alive, Bec’s killed it off with 2 very long-range penalties, pushing the score to 26-14.
Old G’s had a final chance with 10 minutes remaining, when the referee finally had enough of the 14 second half penalties that Bec’s conceded and yellow carded their number 8, but Bec’s stood firm and easily held out an Old G’s team that had run out of steam.
Last week, Old G’s overcame a poor first half and fought back to win. They were unable to do this again this week, but the Old Boys need to stop giving teams a 40 minute head start if they are going to succeed this season.
Next week will see Old G’s second local derby of the season, when they entertain Vigo at home.