Thanet Wanderers Under 13s v Medway U13s

On a beautiful morning this was a great example of two teams showing huge desire to do their best for their clubs and produce an exciting game to watch as I’m sure it was to play in.

Wanderers were at home in what was glorious weather in near perfect conditions for rugby. Medway RFC had stepped in to play us when we had found ourselves without a game and they kindly made the long journey down to Thanet.

The Under 13s have gained valuable experience by playing against our own Under 14s recently and this showed today against a well organised Medway team with some big strong runners who are one of the best teams in Kent for their age group.

The game was split into three 20 minute sessions to allow for the changes both teams wanted to make to give as many players as possible game time.

Medway were the team to get off to the most impressive start! Within the first 30 seconds Thanet were 0-5 down with a strong powerful run from one of the Medway players quickly followed up by further strong play. Thanet were missing tackles and having too many handling errors, but that’s development for you, sometimes you’re flying and then you bump down back to earth and need to adjust to get going again and that’s exactly what the Thanet boys did.

They slowly started to gain ground into their opponents half of the field and committed Medway’s players to the tackle. Shaheer KHAN, Fred O’HALLORAN, Jack BREWER and Gil SMITH all started tackling like demons and were assisted by Henry CARRUTHERS, Toby HUNT and Vinnie PERKINS. Thanet started to push Medway backwards and quickly got on the front foot. Theo ROWE and Ollie JORDAN SMITH were Thanet’s creative sparks and always looked dangerous. On the wings Linus COLLETTE and Ollie BURCH were seeing more of the ball as was Oscar ANDREWS in the second row. At full back Oscar BRADLEY playing in an unfamiliar position was doing a great job.

Thanet now began to win their scrums and were more determined in the rucks and with powerful work from CARRUTHERS, JORDAN SMITH and a strong pack they engineered an opportunity for BURCH and he scored on his full debut. Medway did hit back just before the first break but it felt like the tide had turned a little with the score at 5-20 to Medway

At the end of the first session the coaches spoke to the boys about upping their levels of effort and desire, especially in the tackles and asked them to have more focus for the ball and be ready at all times to receive the ball. Thanet made eight changes at the first break to allow other members of the squad to gain the experience from the game.

Thanet started the second session and initially it was fairly even as the boys showed some improved handling skills and better strength in the tackles. Myles WISE, Finn HICKMOTT, Luca AREZINA really pushed up well to put pressure on their opposite numbers and Charlie PANTELI again showed his fantastic hand speed. Medway scored first from a great kick through and pick up, and followed up with another try. Thanet hit back into the game with great initial play from CARRUTHERS , PERKINS and Harvey STOCKER and the move was finished off by Owen READ. Thanet were now catching up on the scoreboard with Owen EVANS demonstrating his new found tackling ability and in this he was backed up by the other boys. Medway hit back and scored again when Thanet missed a few tackles.

Thanet ended the second session very strongly with SMITH turning the ball over and starting a move that involved a number of the team and was finished off by PERKINS. Zack RALPH was again showing good hand speed and a turn of pace to trouble the opposition and soon PERKINS broke free to score his second try. The whistle went for the end of this section of the game and the boys felt that the wind had changed and their heads were up and they were ready to gain control of the third part of the match.

Thanet kicked off the last section of the game and immediately looked stronger and their fitness began to tell. CARRUTHERS, BREWER, O’HALLORAN and others were immense and they were creating chances and had they made better final passes rather than trying to cut inside to beat their man they could well have scored a few more tries.

Within a few minutes strong team play led to PERKINS gained the ball and he broke free to score his hat trick of tries. Thanet were playing some attractive rugby and now looked the better side, JORDAN SMITH and ROWE were pulling the strings with great support work around them. and it was not long before HUNT battled through and scored a try from a long way out which bought the scored back to 30-35 in Medway’s favour.

The final ten minutes were both tense and exciting for both sides as Medway also continued to play some good rugby and showed some excellent passages of play. Thanet struck again through HUNT who finished off another strong showing from PERKINS and SMITH in the middle of the field and now the scores were level. This did not last long as Medway hit back to take the lead by one score Thanet continued to have a decent amount of possession and were putting pressure on where it was needed until finally after another good team effort HUNT finished off his hat trick of tries and to draw the score level once more. Both sides tested each other for the final few minutes but no further score was gained by either side.

At the final whistle the match ended in a 40-40 a thrilling draw which was probably a fair result as both sides dominated at various points of the game and either side could have gone on to win the game. There was a decent crowd of parents, families and friends watching from both sides and they were all treated to a great morning’s rugby.

This was a good team performance from Thanet where everyone in the squad played a decent amounts of game time and learnt after the poor start to adapt and improve and all the lads gained great credit for themselves.

Within the team performance a few individuals stood out for the coaches, Ollie BURCH for his great direct running and wing play, Fred O’HALLORAN for his no fear approach to tackling, Toby HUNT for the huge amount of work he put in and some brilliant individual tries, Gil SMITH who continues to do the hard work in the engine room of the team without getting the headlines, but today’s man of the match was Vinnie PERKINS. Vinnie not only scored some excellent tries, but also got through lots of hard work for the team, rucking, tackling and really putting the pressure on the opposition.

Well done to all the boys as the real winner today was the whole team.

After the game Head Coach Craig SMITH said ”I was really pleased how the boys responded to the early set backs and how they demonstrated great character, all with effort and desire to get themselves back into the game. Both Matt and I are very proud of the boys and how they are developing. A big thank you to Medway for coming down to play us and bringing their very talented side who were a great credit to their club as our boys were to ours. A good day’s rugby”.

Thanet Wanderers Under 13s are now looking ahead to the next round of the Kent Waterfall tournament on 3rd March where they will look to carry on from last seasons excellent results.