THANET WANDERERS RUFC  42 – 24  PARK HOUSE FC

Wanderers stay top of London (3) South East League after a tough match against their Bromley opponents. Changes in Wanderers line-up included a return after injury for Danny Clement at loose head and Peter Macaulay at Ten.

Sam Rolfe was back at full back and Phil Kemp was on the right wing Park House have had two good wins either side of Christmas against top four sides and in this competitive league their play belies their lowly position

A good crowd who had ignored the cold afternoon saw the visitors benefit from two early penalties to set an attacking position. Despite a fine tackle from Warren Riddell-Broomfield who was back at hooker, the Park House pack retained momentum and trundled over on five minutes. The conversion gave them an early 7-0 lead. A scrum following a Thanet knock on saw the home pack destroy their opponents’ scrum and from the resulting penalty Rolfe made it 3-7. More Thanet pressure brought three penalties in as many minutes with Rolfe making it 6-7 from the third. Wanderers went down to fourteen men on twenty minutes when a late tackle from Adam Gaddes earned him a yellow card. Wanderers went ahead five minutes later when Jay Morbey was alert at outside centre to grab an interception near half way and hold off the chasing defenders to make Rolfe’s conversion a formality.

The visitors struck back quickly with an unconverted try before Rolfe slotted a penalty to stretch the hosts’ advantage to 16-12. Park House now received a yellow card but regained the lead benefiting from a surprisingly long advantage to drive over from a line out. Wanderers raised their game in response and when Charlie Knight was halted wide left the ball was moved to the centre field where Clement burst through at pace before rolling free from an attempted tackle and touching down near the posts for Rolfe to make the half time score 23-19.

A Park House penalty, early in the second half, established them close to the home line in clubhouse corner. Captain Brett Scott, despite not being in the best of health, led a high quality defensive effort with important big tackles from Andy Letts and Joe Carlier as the visitors battered the home line. A Park House line out was stolen but a silly penalty was then conceded to continue the away side’s pressure before Macaulay’s long probing clearance was well chased down by Riddell Broomfield who was a shade unlucky to be penalised for a high tackle.

Toby Rayleigh-Strutt defended well in Thanet’s back row today before making way for Arek Arkadiusz with twenty minutes remaining. A Wanderers scrum around the hour mark ended with a bit of individual magic from Thanet’s number eight Andy Letts. Picking up, following a series of driving attacks close to the opposition 22 he sold a lovely dummy to clear the path for him to run in unchallenged under the posts for a converted try. Kieran Wright who had played with his usual commitment despite carrying a shoulder injury had to withdraw as Rayleigh-Strutt returned whilst an injury to Stuart Plumridge forced the powerhouse centre off to be replaced by another Thanet legend Neil Roby. Thanet’s only ever present this season, Joe Carlier had overcome a demanding examination at tight head and took a deserved break to be replaced by Jay Sanford. Macaulay spotted the danger of an interception so cross kicked instead of passing and Knight bundled a visiting defender into touch.

The referee Raj Khanna had been struggling with a leg injury and after a lengthy break for treatment from both physios he bravely carried on. Minutes later Knight scored Thanet’s fourth try when he finished powerfully after receiving from Macaulay to claim the bonus point try. Rolfe made it 35-19. Park House claimed a fourth try before the ace predator Knight leapt to claim the restart on his left wing before the ball was spun right and it was Knight again who took the final pass on the right wing to seal a well earned victory of 42-24 after another fine conversion from Rolfe.

Head coach Tom Carlier praised his side’s patience in putting the game plan into action and challenged his team to maintain the pressure in the run in to the season’s end. Plenty of candidates for man of the match with a top performance from scrum half Lewis Stone and seventeen invaluable points from Sam Rolfe but it was birthday boy Riddell-Broomfield who was a popular choice as man of the match after another superlative performance.

SQUAD: Clement, Riddell-Broomfield, Carlier, Gaddes, Wright, Rayleigh-Strutt, Scott (C.) Letts, Stone, Macaulay, Kemp, Plumridge, Morbey, Knight, Rolfe. SUBS Arkadiusz, Sanford, Roby.

Written by Colin Whiteley