1st XV
Sat 16 Mar 2024  ·  Counties 3 Kent
Old Elthamians RFC
1st XV


Jon Edwards19 Mar - 15:16
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Elthamians clinched the Counties 3 Kent League title with two games to spare at Whitstable, although coach Martin Hennessy was far from satisfied with their performance.

Whitstable 5 Old Elthamians 36

It says much about the standards Elthamians have set this season that although they laboured to victory over a massively improved Whitstable side with a sloppy, error-strewn display, they still managed to run in six tries and secure a 16th successive bonus point victory in the process.

“Getting promotion was always the goal and I couldn’t be more proud of the boys because they have all been outstanding this season,” Hennessy said afterwards. “But we have moved the goalposts now and want to try and go undefeated for the season. So while it was great to win today it was not our best performance. Defensively we were passive, waiting for the hit instead of meeting them on the gain line. Offensively we were were too flat with the ball in hand and we took some wrong options as well.

“That being said, a win’s a win. It’s been a fantastic season and now we have two games to go against two very good sides, so we need to stick to our gameplan and finish the season in style.”

Whether it was the seaside air at Whitstable or an eagerness to get the job done as quickly as possible, but Elthamians came scorching out of the blocks and scored a try within two minutes of the kick-off. After a multi-phase passage of play, debutant Dan Lee disrupted a home lineout in their own 22, the ball dropped invitingly for hooker Chris Sweet who raced down the touchline to score in the corner.

Jo Leigh converted to give OEs the best possible start and it quickly got even better for the league leaders when Whitstable were temporarily reduced to 14 men after scrum-half Will Davies was deliberately impeded as he took a quick tapped penalty.

However, Elthamians failed to capitalise on their bright opening and it was Whitstable who proceeded to secure the majority of the possession and territory for much of the first half. They were a transformed side to the one that had capitulated to a 90-5 defeat in the reverse fixture at the Queen Mary ground before Christmas. Always a difficult proposition on their own patch, they played intelligent rugby, using their big ball carriers to punch holes in the visitors’ defence before moving the ball quickly wide or kicking behind the wall of blue and gold shirts and pinning Elthamians in and around their own 22.

With an advantage as well at scrum time, Whitstable will wonder how they failed to turn their possession into points on the board despite having plenty of opportunities in the visitors’ 22.

To add insult to injury, Elthamians doubled their lead on the half hour mark with a score that pretty much summed up their afternoon. Winning quick ball off the top of a line out just inside their own half, they almost made a hash of moving play quickly down the line with two wayward long passes. But man of the match Sam Scott on the wing rescued the move with a wonderful jinking run down the wing which sliced open the home defence before he slipped the scoring pass inside to scrum-half Will Davies to touch down under the posts.

A 14-0 lead at half-time probably flattered the visitors who made more unforced errors in the first 40 minutes than they had done in the previous three matches. The next score would prove to be crucial and it came from Elthamians just three minute after the restart. Leigh and Davies combined superbly to burst through the middle of the Whitstable defence and into the 22 where the ball was moved to the left touchline for flanker Luke Cooper to cross in the corner.

The remainder of a scrappy half was punctuated at regular intervals by the sound of the referee’s whistle for a litany of knock-ons, dropped passes and infringements which ensured neither side were able to build any continuity or momentum.

When Elthamians did manage to string some phases together, they looked dangerous out wide. But too often the back line was so flat that they lacked any real penetration on the gain line or were called back for a forward pass.

It wasn’t until the 66th minute that they finally secured the fourth try bonus point when the lively Leigh sprinted over after quick ball from a scrum on the edge of the home 22.

Centre Mitch Coppard added a fifth try just two minutes later, cutting inside to finish off a swift counter-attack from a dropped Whitstable pass inside the visitors’ half.

However, the home side, resolute and competitive throughout, continued to belie their position at the bottom of the league table and scored a deserved consolation try on 74 minutes when Elthamians were called back for the umpteenth time for a forward pass. They were penalised at the resulting scrum, Whitstable kicked to the corner and drove over from the lineout.

However, it was Elthamians who were to have the final say on a memorable afternoon for the club, certainly in terms of achievement if not performance. Fittingly, it was full-back Cam Haimes, a try-scorer in the corresponding fixture last season - Elthamians’ first game for three years, who sped over from the final play of the game after a quickly taken penalty from Prince Ncube had taken play to within a few metres of the Whitstable line.

Tries: Sweet, Davies, Cooper, Leigh, Coppard, Haimes
Cons: Leigh x 3

Half-time: 0-14

Old Elthamians: Trew, Sweet, Wilds, Lee, O’Connell, Nella, Cooper, Norman, Davies, Leigh, Ncube, Robertson, Coppard, Scott, Haimes. Subs: Burbeck, White, Minchin

MOTM: Sam Scott

Match details

Match date

Sat 16 Mar 2024




Counties 3 Kent

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