Win moves Wanderers up to eighth place in London League (2) SE and ensures that is where they will continue to play next season.
Changes in Thanet’s starting fifteen saw Danny Clement at hooker, Arek Janeczko in the second row and Kris Finneran at blind-side flanker in the pack. Tom Walton returned at scrum half with Nick Herbert at inside centre.
A good crowd, reinforced by many of the club’s sponsors who had enjoyed an excellent lunch in the clubhouse, saw Deal kick off down the slope. Wanderers started well with Arek Janeczko looking lively in early phases and quickly drew a penalty signalled by today’s referee Simon Bingham. Minutes later, following a good turnover, Charlie Knight broke strongly and won a penalty about thirty metres out and fairly central. The strengthening wind blowing up the pitch made kicking tricky and Sam Rolfe’s attempt was just wide. Deal weathered the early storm and a good tackle from Knight was needed to stop them breaking clear and again he earned a penalty. Defences were on top and a succession of penalties, injuries and errors prevented continuity from either side. Stuart Plumridge was now at inside centre with Herbert at outside half after injury to Marius Thompson. In the dying minutes of the half he continued a break started by Knight powering through the visitors’ defence and it needed an infringement to stop him. The resultant penalty from around twenty metres was converted by Rolfe and Thanet led 3-0 at the end of a rather scrappy first half.
Wanderers opened the second half at pace and quickly had the visitors’ defence under pressure as they worked their way through the phases close to the Deal line. A smart change of tack saw scrum half Walton send Herbert away and spotting space out right his long pass reached full back Rolfe who had joined the end of the line and he finished off well, wide right. No conversion but Wanderers were in front 8-0 within the first five minutes of the half. Deal are always resilient opponents and as they pressed a great tackle from Kamil Wiecaszek and then a strong double tackle from Ryan Copp and Dan Hill forced errors and helped set them back. Clement now took a break and Wanderers supporters will have been pleased to welcome Warren Riddell-Broomfield back to first team action, almost a year after he sustained a broken leg playing for Thanet. Lock forward Alex Veck who has been performing well in the 2s also came off the bench in the final stages with instructions to tackle and tackle again. Thanet’s tackle count was rising as Deal mounted attack after attack and eventually forward pressure brought a try which was converted to set up a tense final quarter of an hour. Wanderers strayed offside just inside their half but the penalty attempt was wide. Rolfe’s penalty attempt for Wanderers from near the 22 and just left of the posts also went wide before with the last play of the match Wanderers snatched a second try to seal victory. A Deal knock on was grabbed by captain Adam Gaddes who advanced powerfully before handing on to Hill who hared down the line to end the match with a flourish at 13-7.
This wasn’t a pretty match but the final score reflected the strength of the two defences. For Thanet the back row of Finneran, Brett Scott and Andy Letts got through a mountain of work. Knight was back to his best and was particularly effective at the breakdown. Herbert and Plumridge in the backs are two more who will have sore shoulders after their efforts but again this was a game won by a tremendous all round squad effort.
Head Coach Mike Pond was pleased with the manner his team ground out the win due to their grit and determination. He felt this was a game we would have lost earlier in the season and it was especially pleasing to get the win and see how far we have progressed mentally and not just technically. He praised the part played by Jimmy Green who literally shed blood in the Wanderers cause. The loosehead prop had a tremendous tackle count and this together with his usual impeccable performance at scrum time earned him the Malachy Egan Man of the Match award, chosen and presented by Malachy himself.
SQUAD: Green, Clement, Wiecaszek, Janeczko, Gaddes (C.), Finneran, Scott, Letts, Walton, Thompson, Knight, Herbert, Hill, Copp, Rolfe. Subs: Riddell-Broomfield, Veck, Plumridge.