Southwark lose out to Old Gravesendians in top-of-table clash - Written by Daniel Nolan
OGs take a 19-26 victory, despite early offensive success from buoyant Southwark side
Southwark were unfortunate to miss out against a well-drilled Old Gravesendians side at Burgess Park this Saturday, but remain in the top five of the Shepherd Neame Kent 1 London & South East Division after a closely fought top-of-the-table clash.
Southwark got off to a lively start from their kick-off, swiftly earning a turnover through an early display of hard-hitting defence, and displayed coordination at the ruck to put No.7 Jack Bullen through for a try – converted for a 7-0 lead with only two minutes on the clock.
Despite an unfortunate early injury and marked difficult getting into rhythm, a brief period of pressure from the visitors on the Southwark try line was rewarded to close the gap to 7-5 just minutes later – but a shift in tactics towards kicking yielded results for Southwark, as they were able to quickly advance the ball deep into Gravesendians’ 22 in short order and put Bullen through for his second of the day.
Southwark threatened to run away with the game with only twenty minutes gone, as they calmly went through the phases at the ruck to put scrum half Matthew Evans-Young through for their third try, and a 19-5 lead with only twenty minutes gone.
As conditions worsened, however, offensive play in the open field became difficult both sides, and attempts to move the ball down the line were foiled by handling errors. Gravesendians were the first to find their rhythm again - swift movement out of the ruck with a jinking dummy run earning an impressive try for the visitors, putting them within seven points at the break.
Southwark struggled to find their feet in increasingly difficult conditions at the restart, but saw off a long barrage of offensive drives admirably. Despite impassioned organisation from skipper Mark Simonds and solid hitting from Man of the Match Ollie Walton, Southwark’s tiring defences eventually yielded, and a high-pressure conversion kick by the touchline saw the score levelled at 19-19.
As substitutes increasingly game into play, an almost interminable defensive slog seemed to take its toll on the Southwark squad – and another period of OGs pressure yielded the deciding try by a marauding winger, converted in front of the posts to seal a 26-19 win for Old Gravesendians.
Speaking after the match, Southwark Coach Joe Brace complimented ‘a great game of rugby by two very evenly matched teams’:
‘We always thought that we needed another score in the first half (playing with the wind), but I’m very proud of how we defended in the second half for long periods.
I felt we were the better team on the whole, but OGs managed to disrupt our set piece enough, so that we couldn't build effective pressure in the second half - which ultimately won the game.
Despite the loss, I am really pleased with how the team is coming together, and the strength and depth we are now building. The lads are all relishing the trip to Gillingham next week, and getting back to winning ways’.
Southwark travel to Gillingham 20 Oct for another key clash against second-placed Anchorians, and return to Burgess Park on the 27th for a home game against New Ash Green.