On Saturday the Old Boys travelled the short distance down the M2 to Sittingbourne for this week’s Kent 1 fixture. Coming off the back of their recent win at home to promotion chasers Hastings the team were in good spirits and eager to put another WIN on the board.
The weather could not have been better. The ground still soft under foot from this winter’s epic rain fall but with the sun high and bright, with not a cloud in the sky the game kicked off.
The first 5 minutes of play were outstanding from the Old Boys, retaining the ball from kick off they set about quick recycling of the ball and after several phases of play Dim Sum crashed over for the first try of the game, conversion added and the Willies had an early lead. It all went rather flat after that and the Willies allowed Sittingbourne to settle and begin to play the ball about the pitch. Keen to make quick ground with savvy kicking to the corners Sittingbourne set up camp in the Willies 22 resulting in a team try in the corner with a drive over from the forwards. With the kicked missed the score was now 5-7.
Willies looked a little shocked and this showed in a scrappy first half performance. The game all too often stopped for a knock on and when the Willies did show enough composure to string together some phases they were pinged at the break down and Sittingbourne were able to regroup and clear their lines. During the half both teams added another try each with big Ricky Pearce going over in the corner for the Willies after some good team play and offloading from the backs. This was matched by a Sittingbourne try and perhaps the softest of tries the Willies have conceded all season. With the ball spun wide Willies defence left a hole the size of Strood for their centre to run a line straight back in under the posts. Conversion added and the score level 12-12 going into half time.
I would imagine there were some stern words from coach Den Burton at half time with the Willies barely out of 1st gear for much of the 1st half. After a bright start this young side seemed to look a little lost for direction for most of the first 40 and with the game plan reiterated from the coach, the Willies took back to field for the second half.
The second half started brightly for the Willies and good phase play from the forwards saw the ball recycled and looked after by the pack as they edged their way up the field towards Sittingbourne’s 22. With the ball moved quickly along the back line Smithers found himself with space to beat his man and run in a try to settle the Willies early 2nd half nerves. Conversion added and a little breathing space in the score. 12-19
This early 2nd half try spurred Sittingbourne on and for the next 10 minutes battled the Old Boys toe to toe. With both teams looking for good field position to attack the game became a little stretched as both kickers looked for the easy option up the field. Good defence from both teams kept the ball largely in the middle of the park and it was going to take a big team effort from the Willies to add to their score. As the half wore on Sittingbourne began to tire a little and the Willies began to have more joy with the turn over ball. Willies scrum had been strong all game, not something that happens very often with the Willies light weight mobile pack but the fact Oli Woolcock stole numerous scrums against the head speaks volumes for the forwards work rate all game. Turning defence into attack and putting Sittingbourne on the back foot from their own scrum in the middle of the park Willies spun the wall wide to Ben Shears who chipped on and gassed his man to the corner for a well worked try. Conversion missed but Willies now firmly in the driving seat.
From the restart Willies picked up where they left off and again it was great work by the forwards securing the ball and going through the phases with the car ball up the field that sucked in Sittingbourne creating the space out wide. Good hands from the Captain playing at Fly half for today’s game released young Jamie Sanger on the crash for another good try for the Willies and effectively killing off any come back from Sittingbourne.
With 10 minutes remaining the Old Boys felt if they could get good ball there was another try to be had and true to form good all round good team play and protection of the ball in the middle of the park saw Tom Holland pop up on the crash ball, breaking several tackles on route to touching down under the posts. With the extras added along with a penalty from the captain the final score read 12-39.
After a poor first half form the Old Boys a great team rally saw them blow the cob webs away and with it Sittingbourne. This was a well fought encounter from both teams with the Willies fitness and composure in the second half seeing them nudge this tie with good work from the whole team. Special mentions must go to Oli Woolcock in the scrum, Tom Holland in the loose and Captain Bowie playing in his favoured position of fly half which saw him claim Sittingbourne’s man of the match award. However as he was driving he elected Timmy Abbott for the pint off with Sittingbourne’s man of the match which Abbott duly won in a matter of seconds!!!!
It’s been a great season so far from the Old Boys who sit 5th with a game in hand on 4th placed Vigo. 4th was the target set by the coach at the start of the season in what is the Willies first ever league campaign in Kent 1 so there is still work to do and with a semi-final game against Ash in the Kent Plate there is still lots to play for. So if you’re reading this your support up the club would be greatly appreciated in cheering on the Willies in the final few games of the season. Fixtures are on the website.
With a week off next week the team will be raring to go for the home tie against HSBC on March 22 which just so happens to be the VP’s lunch. A strong crowd will be there to cheer the boys on and hopefully make amends for the loss away to HSBC earlier on in the season.
UP THE WILLIES.