Preseason friendly against local rivals teaches us nothing about Folkestone that we didn’t already know.
Tries: Cooke (2), Pearson (3), Howland (1)
Conversions: Mead (4)
The end of last season doesn’t seem that long ago and todays’ game had a distinctly familiar feel about it in more ways than one. Some of that is due to the fact that we were playing our local rivals who we met three times last year and although we won all of those contests our performances varied wildly and if truth be told we escaped with the win in our last encounter at the East Kent Cup final. Dover have certainly been edging closer to us over the last couple of years and had every right to go into this match with a lot of confidence. And although Dover have a strong pack and an excellent half-back combination that had the better of the opening quarter and held their own for two-thirds of the match they don’t have the two or three ‘difference-makers’ that Folkestone has and that is the other reason why today felt particularly familiar as Folkestone’s victory was largely decided by those players.
Dover started the game well and looked the better team for much of the first quarter and should have scored at least twice but were denied by some last ditch tackling from Folkestone close to their own line. At times during this period of play Folkestone were their own worst enemy with some frankly dumb decisions being made by key players who should know better by now that only served to keep the pressure on their teammates and the ball deep inside their own half. When asked by someone on the sidelines what the score was Coach Howland said 0-0... to Dover which just about summed it up. Luckily the first quarter came to a close before Dover could capitalise on all of their possession with a score but so far, so bad as we had seen nothing from Folkestone to suggest that they were a Division 1 team capable of competing against the best in the County.
Things picked up slightly at the restart with some better play all round and a couple of near breaks by centre Jacob Cooke and winger Damien Dixon before the forwards worked in unison to create space out wide for Cooke to blast his way past two defenders and score his first try of the game. Folkestone have a habit of letting teams come straight back at them and Dover did just that to level the score at 5 a-piece. In true tit-for-tat style Folkestone pressured Dover from the resulting kick-off and won the turnover just outside of the Dover twenty-two. Fullback Brad Pearson received the ball and then took off on a darting run that caught the Dover defenders completely off guard, weaving his way to score a solo try that gave the lead back to Folkestone at 12-5 which they took into the half.
Immediately from the Dover restart Folkestone tried several times to secure the ball but somehow failed and instead the ball bounced backwards off hands, arms, legs and other body parts in a veritable comedy of errors that ended inside the home team’s five metre line which invited the Dover pack to attack en-masse and reduce the Folkestone lead to two points. The game drifted for the next ten minutes with neither side gaining an advantage or an opportunity until Pearson broke on a loose ball around midfield, using his soccer skills to kick ahead two or three times before winning the foot race to touch down just left of the posts. James Mead made his second conversion of the day to extend the lead to 19-10 and Folkestone finally looked to have the upper hand.
The final quarter saw several players swapped back in and Folkestone began to show glimpses of their potential with the pack finally winning the battle up front. Lock David Jarvis looked sharp, tackled consistently and fearlessly covered the loose ball while flanker Nick Foster worked tirelessly in support of the ball carriers and played the role of spoiler particularly well at the breakdown. Elsewhere in the backs, Cooke scored his second try after a sublime pass from Pearson completely cut out the Dover midfield and gave him a clear run to the line. Soon after a sharp break by scrum half Ian Balfour just outside the Folkestone 10 metre line forced a couple of Dover defenders to over pursue and his neat inside pass to Pearson gave him the gap to accelerate away to his third try of the game and man of the match accolade.
With the clock running down Folkestone continued to apply pressure and when loosehead Tom Snare emerged from the breakdown with the ball and no cover defence around the half way line it looked like a certain try but surprisingly he was caught from behind by a couple of Dover tacklers although not before releasing fly-half Lewis Howland to score under the posts and seal the victory.
The 15 players who travelled up from Dover gave everything they had today and deserved more from the game especially after their first half performance when they looked like the better side for long periods. Hopefully they can add some players to their squad as the next couple of months of league games are going to be almost impossible for a team with such a small number of players. Folkestone also have their problems in that particular area and it would be good to see some, if not all, of the academy players making an appearance at the club sooner rather than later. We also need all of our regular players, especially key starters, to turn up regardless of whether or not the match is a friendly.
Where is Alex Erwee?