Superb defensive performance from the Wanderers earns the second win of the season.
Dover were a single point ahead of Wanderers prior to this match and with both sides in the nether regions of London (2) South East the importance of the match was clear for both teams.
Wanderers welcomed back scrum-half Lewis Stone who was injured in a pre-season friendly against Dover. Sam Taylor returned to the back row after a stint on the wing and veteran Tom Longdon at outside half bought the total of players who have played for Thanet in the first five matches to thirty.
Nick Herbert played at inside centre and Jackson Perry on the left-wing and with Adam Gaddes and Tom Mount both back from injury plus several positional changes it was a much-changed side from that which played against Gravesend two weeks ago.
Thanet kicked off up the slope in conditions ideal for rugby. Dover had most of the early possession and clearly thought their scrum could have an advantage as they opted to take a scrum rather than kick an early penalty. Wanderers defence was strong and set the tone for the match as Charlie Knight dominated a breakdown and Nick Herbert cleared well. When Wanderers went off their feet at a breakdown to concede a penalty, the referee marched them back a further ten metres for dissent. A speedy break by Reece Hougham along his right-wing was stopped by a good tackle close to the line. The Dover hooker was shown yellow for slapping down a pass but the resultant line out was lost which summed up the careless nature of the first quarter of the game for Wanderers. Brett Scott then stole a line out and a good carry by Mount drew a penalty. Knight gathered the ball in his own half and swerved his way through early challengers before turning on the afterburners for a fine individual try which Sam Rolfe converted for 7-0. Three minutes later Knight was quick to pick up the ball and hurry to take a penalty as the visiting defence straggled back. His pass found Herbert whose long cut out pass to Hougham gave the right-wing some space to manoeuvre and show his pace as he raced to the line for a 12 0 lead. Knight again and Jackson Perry on the left-wing also tested the visiting defence before the concession of another penalty for a breakdown penalty brought a team warning from the referee that the next similar infringement would result in a yellow card for the player concerned. Gaddes broke strongly and set a promising move which broke down with possession lost. Big tackles from Danny Clement and Knight were features of a powerful defence before a penalty from Herbert set the attack which led to a penalty just right of the Dover posts and 25 metres out. Rolfe stroked it over for a 15 0 lead at half time.
Jake Webster replaced Clement in the front row for the second half but he was back on ten minutes later taking over from Mount. Dover started the second half well and Sam Taylor with fellow wing forward Warren Riddell Broomfield were prominent in driving them back. An attempted charge down by Herbert of a powerful clearance, which broke through his hands and took him full in the face, led to a break in play and a five-metre scrum. The Wanderers chairman Andy Letts now withdrew after a whole-hearted shift in the second row with Kris Finneran replacing him. The increasingly dominant Thanet scrum went into top gear and accelerated over the line for Scott to get the touchdown. The conversion from Rolfe gave Wanderers a 22 0 lead. Dover rallied and as Wanderers finally infringed at a breakdown it was Finneran who was shown yellow with under ten minutes remaining. Jake Mcgee replaced Gaddes who after missing a couple of games was quickly back to form. Dover put the depleted home defence under massive pressure and after a couple of minutes, Referee Richard Hanks spotted a high tackle and ran to the posts to award a penalty try and seven points to Dover. Hougham emerged from a heavy tackle with a broken nose which is likely to keep him sidelined for a while. Despite a big final push from the visitors Captain Neil Wakefield marshalled his defence to great effect and their intensity prevented any further score although down to fourteen players until the end when the score remained at 22 7.
This was a top-quality defensive effort from the Wanderers with everyone contributing. Three well-worked tries deservedly gave them the win points but no bonus point which meant Old Alleynians moved to seventh place with Thanet remaining in eighth.
Lots of candidates for Man of the Match with the new half-back pairing of Lewis Stone and Tom Longdon both having good matches. Top Tackler Brett Scott was again peerless in that department but the coaches’ choice was Nick Herbert whose calm control and fine defence earned him the award.
SQUAD: Clement, Wakefield (C.), Mount, Letts, Gaddes Riddell-Broomfield, Taylor, Scott, Stone, Longdon, Perry, Herbert, Knight, Perry, Rolfe. SUBS. Webster, Finneran, Mcgee