As always, the Devil is in the details...
Tries: Cooke (6’ and 59’), Snare (20’ and 66’)
Conversions: Mead (2)
There are probably a few reasons why Folkestone lost their first league match away to Dartfordians this morning but a lack of courage certainly isn't one of them. And the 18 players who took to the pitch can't be faulted for their commitment or determination either especially when you consider the temperature was pushing 30oC throughout. When you break it down the contest swung on a couple of mistakes that Dartfordians turned into 12 points today. Apart from that I would say that Folkestone outperformed their opposition for long spells of the game and could so easily have come away with the win.
The home team couldn’t have gotten a better start to the game, scoring in the first minute after some strong work up front created an opportunity for their talented centre to evade two would be tacklers to touch down under the posts before a single Folkestone player had even touched the ball. Folkestone’s response was impressive though and they took the game to the Dartfordians pack from the restart, driving the ball deep inside their twenty two before shifting the attack out wide to centre Jacob Cooke who broke two tackles on his way to the line. A nice conversion by James Mead tied the game but the away team immediately handed the lead back to Dartfordians from the restart by failing to secure their ball. It happened against Dover two weeks ago but this one was far more costly.
Again Folkestone responded well and controlled the ball for much of the next ten minutes with several near breaks that were only thwarted by some last ditch tackling by the home team. Cooke looked especially strong whenever he had the ball, taking the first hit and refusing to go down but too often he received the ball flat which gave the defenders time to rally. Even so Folkestone had moved into a good attacking position again and some sterling effort from the pack should have been rewarded with a try that the referee said was held up but it only served to delay the inevitable as a fired-up Thomas Snare took the ball from the resulting five metre scrum and crashed over to even the score.
Both teams were having their problems with Dartfordians struggling to win their own line-out ball throughout courtesy of a dominant Ben Gunn while Folkestone were under pressure at the back of the scrum where the constant sniping by the Dartfordians number nine was making life difficult for Ian Balfour to distribute clean ball to fly-half Lewis Howland which cost Folkestone a couple of strong attacking opportunities if truth be told. With the half drawing to a close Folkestone lost starting fullback Joe (The Milkman) Johnson with a thumb injury which only served to highlight the lack of available bodies in the squad today but when the whistle blew on an intense first half the general consensus of opinion on the side line was that Folkestone looked to have the upper hand and all the momentum going into the second period although with the heat becoming an increasing factor I did wonder if the team would have the legs (and bodies) to last the distance.
Either the Dartfodians half-time talk went particularly well or Folkestone lost their concentration. In any event the home team looked fresher and stronger from the restart, attacking the Folkestone line with renewed intensity that hadn’t been seen since the opening minutes of the first half and were rewarded with a quick converted try to regain the lead 19-12. Five minutes later and a great run by their dangerous winger created an opportunity for Dartfordians to score directly under the posts. Ten minutes into the second half and Folkestone were in a 14 point hole without really having any possession. And yet once again they showed immense character by standing up and going straight back at Dartfordians with the pack leading the way especially the aforementioned Snare taking a leading role as expected and prop Ollie Swain who not only played out of position today but gave a disciplined and mature performance that was highly encouraging and inspiring to his team mates.
The home team looked shattered at this point and were starting to give away penalties through a mixture of tiredness and pressure. A fast thinking (and swerving Cooke) pulled the score back to a single try with an excellent solo effort that was created out of nothing really and highlighted his growth as a rugby player who can no longer be classed as just big and (really, really) fast.
With at least 10 minutes left on the clock there was everything to play for and Folkestone looked to be in the driving seat as they waited for the restart but once again they put themselves under pressure by failing to secure the ball and a grateful Dartfordians pack seized the opportunity, driving Folkestone back towards their line, sucking in tacklers and leaving Damien Dixon isolated on the wing facing a two man overlap which made it easy for Dartfordians to extend their lead to 31-19. There simply wasn’t enough time left for Folkestone to complete a comeback but their superior fitness meant they spent the last five minutes attacking the Dartfordians line and short range penalty saw Snare going over for his second try in the far left corner to complete the scoring 31-24 to the home team.
Before the game I honestly thought the match report would be all about the players who weren’t here today but in some ways I think they did us all a favour. Alex Erwee made a welcome return to the club although it was clear he is lacking match fitness and it was especially nice to see crocked fullback Bradley (Sick Note) Pearson turn up to support his team mates (prior to his next injury) although his replacement Jack Davies looked more than solid in the role, was rarely out of position and made some astute kicks in the second half. Depth is still a problem because of injuries but there is a pool of players available at the academy and I am struggling to understand why we aren’t taking advantage of it. Hopefully the soap opera of the last couple of weeks has now been put to bed once and for all and we can now look forward to the cup game against Canterbury in a fortnight but not before working on catching the ball, especially at those restarts gentlemen.
This weekend's other results are here for those of you that are interested (including an impressive win for Canterbury).
One last thing, unless YOU ALL REGISTER as players here I can't post additional statistics about your performance as individuals. Sick of asking you, frankly.