Six tries for Wanderers earn a bonus-point win in the Maidstone sunshine.
There were four changes to the starting XV for Thanet. The return of the experienced half-back pairing of Tom Walton and Nick Herbert unlocked the potential of the backline that included a returning Charlie Knight at outside centre replacing the injured Dan Hill. In the pack, David Lemon came in for Sam Taylor at six.
Conditions again favoured supporters rather than players as the temperature was in the mid-twenties. The well-grassed pitch was a credit to its ground keepers. Maidstone recorded the double over Wanderers last season and there was a determination in the Thanet side to show that those two games did not demonstrate their true calibre.
Three early tackles from Knight showed his resolve to set the record straight and Brett Scott was also actively building his tackle count before being the one to finish a stylish movement that Tom Walton originated deep in his own half. Sam Rolfe added the extras for 7-0 after five minutes but Maidstone hit straight back with an unconverted try two minutes later. Thanet were playing a bit loosely and then saw a penalty in their favour reversed by referee Michael Maple. Good sustained handling, on the fifteen-minute mark, saw the ball tracked patiently from the right to midfield and back before Reece Hougham rounded off a quality try and an excellent conversion from Rolfe meant Thanet led 14-5. The next twenty minutes belonged to Maidstone as playing down the marked slope they gave the Wanderers defence a thorough examination. Scott and back row partners Andy Letts and David Lemon fought to protect their line and kicks to touch from Nick Herbert rebuffed attacks. Neil Wakefield marshalled his defence and he led by example as his pack kept the opposition at bay until finally a penalty in front of the posts for Maidstone brought their deficit back to 8-14. The siege was lifted and three penalties in quick succession to Thanet put them in a good attacking position. A searing break from Knight put the visitors close before a penalty was conceded and as they regrouped another promising move was halted by a knock-on. Wanderers continued to press and just before half time Knight with a typically powerful finish brought the reward their pressure had earned. Rolfe again converted for a half-time lead of 21-8 to Wanderers. A good half for the Thanet side with a solid scrum anchored by two players who came through Wanderers junior ranks, Tom Mount and Jake Webster. Jackson Perry played soundly but with Knight on imperious form, he saw little of the ball. The improvement in Wanderers backline was clear to see and whetted the appetite for the second half.
It was hardly underway however before another lengthy injury to a Maidstone player halted the action. Wanderers were quickly back into their stride from the restart and Andy Letts initiated a promising movement backed by good work from Wakefield which ended with Hougham claiming his double and earning his side a try bonus point. Maidstone battled hard throughout the match and were rewarded with a try and conversion that went over off the post. Adam Gaddes now withdrew after another invaluable shift in the Thanet engine room, he and partner George Orton truly are the heartbeat of Wanderers eight. Lemon also withdrew after a strong all-round performance. They were replaced by Jake Mcgee and Warren Riddell-Bloomfield who soon combined in a saving double tackle. Walton now resorted to a bit of soccer to break the Maidstone defensive line and Stuart Plumridge in support benefited from the neat footwork to open his try account for the season. The final try and arguably the best brought Knight his double. Receiving after a scrum near his own 22 he accelerated at a pace which neither the home defence nor his own support could cope with to run in a memorable score. No conversion but Wanderers led 38-15. Hougham retired to be replaced by Jake Whittlesea and good stamina was evident from both sides as the final minutes were played out with no addition to the score. Usually a loose-head prop, Danny Clement found himself at Scrum Half last week, this week he was stand-in head coach and he will certainly be very satisfied with the overall performance of the team today. Herbert and Walton had fine games and there was a nice brace from Reece Hougham. Brett Scott was on top form but Wanderers Man of the Match had to be Charlie Knight. Strong in the tackle, contesting breakdowns and scoring two tries this was an outstanding performance.
Next week Crowborough are the visitors to St Peters (Kick Off 3PM) The Sussex side were promoted to London 2 (SE) this season and had a notable win on Saturday at home to Colfeians so this will be a testing game.
SQUAD: Webster, Wakefield (C.), Mount, Orton, Gaddes, Lemon, Scott, Letts, Walton, Herbert, Hougham, Plumridge, Knight, Perry, Rolfe. REPLACEMENTS, Riddell-Bloomfield, Mcgee, Whitlesea