On the 3rd November Thanet played at home and breathed a sigh of relief given that the weather the day before had felt like the world was ending. By contrast the weather on Sunday was almost perfect for rugby and the Rec. looked fantastic and was full of kids from a number of clubs. 

Thanet had a squad of 29 available and the coaches had committed to giving all players half a game against a Canterbury, a side that we have great respect for as they are always hugely tough opponents, but we want to test ourselves against the best.

The 15 chosen to commence the game started very strongly. Henry Carruthers, Toby Hunt and Isaac Divine all put in some big tackles early on to set the tone for the coming performance. Wanderers retained the ball well and looked to get the ball wide to use Ollie Burch and Oscar Bradley’s pace. Canterbury too put in some great tackles early on saving, what looked like, try-scoring runs. Theo Rowe captained Thanet’s side from fly-half and dictated a lot of the play along with the equally creative Zach Ralph.

Very strong runs from Max Anderson supported by Gil Smith and Jack Brewer ended with Burch scoring the opening try in front of a decent-sized crowd of parents and spectators.

There followed a ten-minute passage of play where both sides tested each other, although Thanet probably shaded this period and could have extended their lead but for a few handling errors and giving away too many penalties. Hopefully, they will learn from their mistakes going forward.

On the 18th minute, Vinnie Perkins, Fred O’Halloran and Tom O’Callaghan showed great work rate in the engine room of the team to allow Hugo Evans to go on a mazy run that finished with a score under the posts giving Rowe an easy kick for the additional two points.

Playing for the first time for the team at full-back, Sam Stevenson put in an excellent performance showing some great handling skills.

The home side were really flexing their muscles and the likes of Divine, Carruthers, Hunt, Smith and O’Callaghan got through huge amounts of tackles for Thanet as the team played some attractive rugby.

Virtually on the cusp of half time, Smith and Carruthers combined to free Burch who showed some great wing play and with a lot still to do, finished the move with a great side step inside the last Canterbury player to score his second try, which again was converted by Rowe.

Thanet led 19-0 at half time, probably kicking themselves that the score was not more in their favour.

With 14 other players chomping at the bit to get on the pitch the coaches changed the team at the interval and brought on 14 replacements for the second half, leaving only Stevenson on from the first half.

Ollie Jordan Smith took over the captaincy and Wanderers started well from the kickoff.

Canterbury had also made a large number of changes. This can be disruptive to the flow of the game, but both teams carried on as the first half had finished, showing some great rugby skills.

Canterbury got off to a flying start when one of their lads broke free from general play and ran virtually a full half of the pitch to score and reduce the points difference.

Wanderers responded well with Henry Mason, Finley Hickmott and Shaheer Khan all doing great work to win the ball back from the opposition.

Oscar Andrews and Kai Clarricoats tested the Canterbury defence and so Canterbury switched to kicking to try and gain possession, but Harvey Stocker showed great concentration to pluck each ball out of the sky from the full-back position.

Canterbury then broke free and scored another try that was converted. Thanet responded growing back into the game and camped out in the Canterbury half and pounded away at their try line with attack after attack. Canterbury’s defence held strong until Jordan Smith made a strong run and got into the try zone and the coaches all thought he had scored, but Canterbury had managed to hold him up.

Shortly after Linus Honey showed some great skills, assisted by Charlie Panteli which allowed Hunt to power through to score. Panteli concerted with a great kick.

Myles Wise who had been having a good game, but no luck with injuries, was forced to leave the field after he had been hit in the throat by the ball and had then banged his head badly on the ground after being tackled following a line-out. Immediately after this incident, Canterbury managed to run through Thanet’s defence and score from this position. 

Owen Evans was having his best game so far for the team, getting to the breakdown quickly and tackling well. Dominick Springer and Harry Kirkpatrick were putting in good performances and moving the ball well.

The score was now 26-26, but the Thanet side had their tails up. Finally, right at the end of the game,  great pressure from Carruthers and Hickmott, gave Barnaby Price the opportunity to power in for a try which left no more time on the clock, Panteli again converted demonstrating that within Wanderers team there are many talented players.

The final score was Thanet 33 Canterbury 26. This was a great win over a very strong side that has been a benchmark for consistency over a number of years. Thanet can look forward to renewing their rivalry with them when they play them in a few weeks’ time in the Kent cup.

After the game, Craig Smith, the Head Coach, spoke to the lads and told them that they had been very dominate in the first half but needed to extend this further and learn from the referee’s advice. In the second half after a testing period, they had shown great character and spirit to come back and get the win in the end. The coaches are proud of all the boys, but days like this victory really show how far they have developed and they are heading along the right path. They are a real credit to themselves, their families and the club’

Wanderers travel next weekend to Beckenham in their first game of this season’s Kent Cup.

Matt Hickmott.