Thanet travelled the short distance to Dover, in rain-free conditions for once, with a squad of 23 players with a number of other boys unavailable either due to injury or away for half term.
It was decided that the game would be split into thirds of 20 minutes each. With the half-game rule now in effect, this may not give great continuity, but it certainly gives everyone an opportunity as all players get at least half a game.
Wanderers started strongly, if a little untidily, in their play in the first third of the game. With Theo Rowe captaining the side and marshaling the team, Thanet gained some good possession and Fred O’Halloran, Hugo Evans and Tom O’Callaghan all put in some big tackles early on.
Some great play by Isaac Divine, assisted by Charlie Panteli and Vinnie Perkins, created huge pressure on the Dover try line, but the home side managed this well. Then from a scrum, Rowe received the ball and showed a fantastic bit of skill by changing the direction of the attack and cross kicking the ball to the opposite side of the pitch to give Oscar Bradley a chance to score and he exhibited great speed and concentration to get enough pressure on the ball to gain Wanderers first try.
Thanet then had a period of good possession and looked dangerous without actually getting any reward. Max Anderson had some big carries and Linus Honey was adapting well to a new position for him at full-back. Gil Smith as always was putting in lots of effort and sacrifice for the team.
Wanderers then found themselves back deep in their own half taking a line-out in their favour. This aspect of the game is new this season for the U14s and still needs a little more work on it and this showed as Dover managed to steal possession and run in a try to level the scores.
For Thanet Ollie Burch had some good runs down the wing and Toby Hunt showed his strength in the centre, while Sam Lawless making his full debut for the side, put in a strong performance, but Dover held out.
Ollie Jordan-Smith then created an opportunity for Perkins to make a break and he powered in to give Thanet back the lead.
For the second third of the game, Wanderers made eight changes to their team and Dover too made some changes. Dominick Springer was a replacement for Thanet’s front row where he is learning his trade, now that the U14s play eight-man scrums for the first time this year. Finley Hickmott and Harvey Stocker found themselves on the wings, where Stocker made some excellent cover tackles. Owen Read resumed at his normal position of full-back where he showed he is getting to grips with this position.
Both teams cancelled each other out in this third of the game and there was a lot of play in the middle of the pitch where Barnaby Price, Harry Kirkpatrick, Owen Evans and Myles Wise were all exposed to plenty of tackling.
Neither side really created any real chances and this third of the match closed with no further score, leaving it 10-5 to Thanet going into the last third of the game.
For the last third, Wanderers reverted to their starting line up and replaced some players 10 minutes into this phase of the game.
Thanet lost their way at the start going down to an equalising Dover try after some sloppy tackling by Wanderers.
Dover grew in confidence at this point and punished Thanet by scoring two quick converted tries albeit that they were assisted in this by Wanderers failing to do the basics well.
To Thanet’s credit, they tried to raise their heads and get back into the game and after some strong team play in the middle of the pitch, Hunt was freed to score another try for Wanderers.
As hard as they tried Thanet could not get back further into the game and Dover eventually ran in another converted try to make the final score Dover 31 Thanet 15. Credit must go to Dover who played good, well-organised rugby to secure the win.
The young Wanderers have been challenged to respond and learn from this experience. The good thing is that because this has happened so early in the season there will be an opportunity to put things right for another day. The coaches, Craig Smith and Matt Hickmott are confident this was a bad day at the office and does not truly reflect the normal free-flowing rugby that the boys produce.