By Ross Chipperton
Tries from Egleton, Tabor, Payne and Gray send Faversham into finals day for the first time in their history as Faversham score 29 unanswered points against a strong Sittingbourne side in the Kent Salver semi-final.
Sittingbourne started with a Gayle force wind in their backs as they looked to make an instant impact from kick off. At the first scrum of the game, they won a penalty against the head as Faversham were penalised for standing up in the front row. It nearly got worse for ‘Sham as hooker Egleton appeared to have injured his Neck as the scrum collapsed; but after assessment from their physio he was deemed fit to play on. He did switch to blindside flanker which meant Meadows moved into Hooker. From the penalty, Sittingbourne opted for the corner and looked for the push over try. Good work at the lineout from Kingdon disrupted them from setting up a maul and Garnham and Mills worked well to put the away sides’ three quarters under pressure; creating the turnover to let Faversham get out of their 22’.
For the next five minutes both sides traded possession around the halfway line as neither defence would give an inch away to their opposition. Huge hits from Faversham’s captain McDermott, alongside Garnham and Mills; meant Sittingbourne never got the chance to play with front-foot ball. This ironically led to their first try as a long kick was collected by winger Fijia’n Sarate, who beat two players before passing the ball onto open side flanker Kingdon. A loose pass enabled Sittingbourne’s fly half to fly hack the ball on and win the foot race to the try line, opening the scoring and giving the away side a 7-0 lead.
Faversham fault back almost instantly. Stand in fly-half Sam Payne’s game management was exceptional, not giving Sittingbourne the chance to play any rugby outside of their half and this led to the home sides first try being scored. Strong carries from Garnham and McDermott led to Payne receiving quick ball inside Sittingbourne’s 22’. He slipped Mills through a gap and a moment of magic from the number 8 saw him beat four opposition players through a mixture of power and skill before being held up just short of the line. Now with slow ball, Egleton picked from the base looking to create clean ball for scrum half Tabor. However, with Meadows leached onto him, he managed to bounce off of two tackles and place the ball over the whitewash to make the score 7-5.
Despite playing into a strong wind, it was Faversham who dominated the remainder of the half. Sittingbourne were second best in every aspect of the game and simply couldn’t handle or match the intensity the home side were playing with. Meadows and Egleton continued to hit rucks which allowed the likes of Garnham, McDermott and Mills to make the strong carries they are so renowned for. The back three of Sanders-Champney, Sarate and Gray were excellent both under the high ball and when chasing kicks from Payne.
It was kick from Payne where the next try originated from. Faversham were awarded a penalty after Mills secured a turnover at the breakdown and Payne kicked to touch. Egleton found Meadows at the back of the line out and the Castaways set up a driving maul around the halfway line. What was originally called to set up clean ball for the backs soon turned into a powerful charge towards the Sittingbourne try-line. With the ball continuously moved to the rear of the maul the Faversham pack kept driving all the way into the Sittingbourne 22’. From here, Faversham played smart and with a penalty advantage being played by the referee, the home side opted to pick and go towards the posts. Strong carries from Garnham and Mills followed. Just as Kingdon was getting ready to edge closer to the line, scrum half Tabor spotted a gap in the defence and sniped through to give Faversham a 12-7 lead into the interval. It was a moment of genius from the scrum half who even confused some of his own teammates by sneaking through a gap.
At half time it was clear that Faversham still had plenty more to give in the remaining forty minutes and they started the second half with a bang. From the restart Payne sent a delightful kick over the wingers head and into touch inside the away sides half. From this Kingdon won ball against the head and Payne found Gander-Compton a strong line as he crashed through two tackles before giving Tabor quick front-foot ball to play with. Faversham looked to go wide but only a high tackle from the Sittingbourne winger managed to prevent Jaynes going through to extend the scoring. From the penalty, Payne kicked to touch and Faversham opted to go all in at the lineout. Egleton found Kingdon after he found space behind the Sittingbourne jumper and ‘Sham started to drive towards the posts. Egleton took the ball from Mills and the pack began edging closer to the line. Just as the maul slowed up Payne spotted a gap in the defence and took the ball to crash over the line from close range. Payne kicked the extras the give the home side a resounding 19-7 lead.
Five minutes later and Faversham were on the attack again. Good work from Woolf at the breakdown took out four Sittingbourne players and Tabor used this clean ball to find Payne in space outside him. Payne opted to kick over and the ball bounced twice before ending up in touch inside the Sittingbourne 22’. After the away side failed to throw the ball in straight Faversham won their scrum and Mills broke off down the blind side making good yards. On the second phase, Garnham, who appeared to be having a battle with Mills and McDermott over who could make the most yards, crashed through the defensive line before his offload to Woolf was knocked on just short of the line.
It wasn’t long however before Faversham did add to their tally, as Mills won another penalty for not releasing at the breakdown. With McDermott opting for the kick at goal, Payne split the uprights to make the score Faversham 22-7 Sittingbourne.
Gander-Compton continued to carry well and set up the fourth and final try from another one of his strong runs. After making 15 yards, he provided quick ball to Tabor, who released Payne down the right hand side of the pitch. Payne then drew the last defender before finding Gray outside him. Gray used his speed to fly past the remaining defenders and place the ball over the try-line to make the final score read 29-7. It was Faversham’s best performance of the season and is a reflection on how far they have come this season under Director of Rugby Rob Dengate.
Dengate described the performance as ‘one of the best he had seen’ and that ‘the club is building momentum at just the right time of the season’. He went to add that with the club challenging for both promotion to Kent 1 alongside and winning the Kent Salver, there are four games left that will all be treated as cup finals.
‘Skipper Rhys Mcdermott added that ‘you could see straight away from the boys faces in the changing room how much they were up for it tonight, the lads really stood up and took the game to them. We had great game management and the decision making from our backs combined with us forwards dominating the collision zones around the park meant Sittingbourne really had no chance tonight.’
Faversham’s next game is at home to Brockleans on Saturday 23rd March as they continue their quest for promotion to Kent 1. Their Cup final is at Charlton Park on Sunday 28th April and will be against either Cranbrook or Southwark Lancers.