Dartfordians master pitch and conditions to overcome Combe
By John Vallely
Dartfordians RFC 20-13 Westcombe Park RFC
Combe went to neighbours Dartfordians full of hope of picking up a victory in what was thought to be the first ever league encounter between the sides. That Combe would even manage a losing bonus point with a score in the last minute looked unlikely for lengthy stretches of the second half as Dartfordians mounted a mighty defence which left the visitors bereft of creativity.
The game was played on what can kindly be called an undulating pitch as Darts first team pitch was unplayable due to a sunken drain. The home side coped better throughout the match both with the lumpy terrain and the squally weather conditions. Darts also had two players competing for man of the match award with stand off and open side both putting in a hefty stint in the tackle area which stopped Combe in their tracks.
It had started well for Combe when scrum half Bradley Smith crossing after 22 minutes scrambling over after Josh Livett had made the initial line break. Darts were quick to respond winning scrum ball on Combe's put in as the ball ricocheted off shins, winning the penalty at the ensuing breakdown which was duly slotted. 3-5 to Combe.
It was pretty stolid fare for both sets of supporters. Darts had a slight edge in the scrums and Combe were a bit more abrasive in the loose as both flanker Ryan Hackett and centre Bryan Young were rumbustious in a number of thrusts at the Dartfordians defence. However the territorial gains came to naught and it was Darts who nearly scored when they put together a number of phases in the Combe 22 .
Darts did indeed score next with 36 minutes gone. Combe went down to 14 men when seeing yellow for an overly aggressive attempt to thwart a Darts tackle. The home-side put the depleted Combe defence under pressure near the try line and after being held up on the line succeeded in scoring with their next attempt.
Combe would have just about taken a 8-5 deficit but conceded just on the half time whistle when failing to clear a kick from Darts. The ball bobbled over the line on the uneven ground wrong footing the Combe defender. Darts kick chaser was on the spot to dot down for the try which was converted to give Darts a healthy 15-5 lead.
If anything the weather deteriorated in the second half and there was no chance of the crowd seeing any free flowing Rugby. Combe's cause wasn't helped when they again went down to 14 men when yellow carded for dissension at a scrum penalty. Despite the numerical disadvantage Westcombe Park narrowed the lead when striking a good penalty after Darts had infringed at the breakdown.
Combe were seeing a fair amount of ball but Darts were next to score on 65 minutes when winger Liam Brencher got his hands on the ball and swerved his way through the Combe defence to score out wide. The conversion was missed but Darts now led 20-8.
In the last 15 minutes Combe battered away at a resolute Darts defence which buckled but did not break until the final minute when flanker George Milligan crashed over from close quarters. The kick was quickly taken and when it missed the referee blew for time.
So honours go to Darts whose game plan in the weather worked well but moreover plaudits go to their defence which was rock solid for most of the game. Westcombe Park RFC battered away but there was the sense that some imagination or sleight of hands may have worked better even with the rain swirling.
Back to Goddington Dene next Saturday as the season turns the corner with Thurrock the visitors.
Westcombe Park RFC: Simmons T, Conlon, Forsyth, Clarke, Delderfield, Milligan, Hackett, O'Sullivan, Smith, Cameron, Hamilton, Young, Saffrey, Livett, Harrison
Replacements: Eames, Pass, Church-Mills
Match Report: John Vallely