Sevenoaks grind out a victory and deny Combe a bonus point
By John Vallely
Sevenoaks RFC 19-10 Westcombe Park RFC
A case of what might have been when the final whistle blew. Combe had led twice in the match and stout defence from the visitors had forced Sevenoaks to rely on the boot to keep themselves in contention. Even a bonus point was denied Combe at the end when a valiant try attempt was held up over the line and the referee chose to blow for no side when the visiting fans were convinced Combe should have had a 5 metre scrum. It was clear that a raucous home support were edgy as they begged the referee to blow for time from 70 minutes onward.
The first half was a fractured affair marred by a number of high tackles from both sides, the most serious of which needed a lengthy spell of treatment for Combe's Dan Hamilton. The home side scored from the first of these infringements with a well struck penalty on 12 minute mark, the kick made easier by some Combe frustration which brought the referee's ire and a 10 metre sanction. 3 minutes later the sanction was a yellow card for Westcombe Park and another 3 points for Sevenoaks.
Combe had a clear edge at scrum but this was balanced by Sevenoaks winning clean ball on their own line outs and seriously disrupting Combe's ball. Against a stiff breeze the visitors also had a more serious attacking edge through Hamilton as well as hard running centres Sam Atiola and Sean Beckett.
The half remained scoreless until the closing minutes. With 3 minutes to go Hamilton, having shaken off the impact of the earlier high tackle, scythed down the left wing involved the rumbustious Reece Conlon who made further metres deep in the 22. Quick ball from a tap penalty was taken on by Atiola who fed pacy full back Harry Sansbury for the first try of the match. Matt Harrison then converted to give Combe a 7-6 advantage.
The advantage lasted all of 2 minutes when another high tackle was penalised and the penalty kicked to restore Sevenoaks' lead at 10-7.
If the first half had been a disappointment in terms of flowing Rugby the second period was not much different. Combe pressed, Sevenoaks disrupted and the game stultified. The most exciting moments came from a Combe scrum demolishing their opponents and a home team forward throwing a speculative haymaker which brought a yellow card.
15 minutes had passed before the first score of the half. Sevenoaks were pinged for hands in the ruck and Matt Harrison stepped up to restore the lead to Combe: 9-10. This lasted all of 3 minutes when Combe infringed in defence and Sevenoaks winger Ben Adams slotted his fourth kick of the afternoon to edge the home team back in front.
5 minutes later it got worse for Westcombe Park when Sevenoaks, not for the first time in the half, constructed an effective maul. It trundled down the right touchline eating up 15-20 metres and, with Combe's defence retreating, Sevenoaks went over for a converted try.
Combe threw themselves back into action and a fine Hamilton run was stopped by yet another high tackle with a penalty the only sanction. Sevenoaks went down to 14 men for the second time as they were caught offside in the red zone but the Goddington Dene side were not able to take advantage. Combe kept on the attack but the closest they came was that held up effort in the dying embers of the match.
A frustrating afternoon for Combe who couldn't make their attacking edge count at vital junctures. Possibly a wee bit of a fright for Sevenoaks who showed a fair degree of resilience under pressure and with results elsewhere in the league they have moved to the top.
Photo's courtesy of Sevenoaks RFC can be seen here http://sevenoaksrugby.com/westcombepark110219
Next week Combe go to the seaside to face high flying Brighton.
Westcombe Park RFC: Conlon, Fernandez, Simmons T, Dennett, O'Sullivan, Pohlen, Pass, Donovan, Harrison, Hamilton Atiola, Beckett, Saffrey, Sansbury
Replacements: Simmons J, Calohard, Smith
Match Report: John Vallely