After the disappointment of a first defeat of the season last week against Camberley, Combe were fired up to make amends for the visit to a Beckenham side celebrating 125 years of Rugby. Naturally the home side were equally up for the contest in front of a boisterous home support numbering a good few hundred.
But, with a bang, the visitors poured cold water on the party spirit when they scored within a minute as the large crowd were only just settling into place around the touchline. Dom Lespierre made a quick break supported by lock Gary Brett who sent in Lewis Headland for a sniping run and a try under the posts. Matt Harrison converted for an early 7 points lead for Combe.
Beckenham responded spiritedly and kept Westcombe Park stuck in and around their own 22. A penalty relieved a wee bit of pressure but the home side were quickly back on the front foot and, when Combe were caught offside right in front of the posts, the easy kick was gratefully plonked between the posts.
Fullback Joel Medcraft was looking lively. A stirring run down the left from inside his own half was only just thwarted. To the consternation of the home supporters Beckenham were reduced to 14 men when a sinbinning was the decision for a deliberate slapping away of the ball. Combe were unable to capitalise from the extra man due to great Beckenham defensive resilience combined with Combe's preference to run the ball rather than kick for territory.
The home team were back to full strength when Medcraft scored Combe's second. The visitors had secured quick ball and had loaded up the outside channel with what looked like a 5 man overlap. Medward didn't need to make use of this abundance and he weaved in for the score which Harrison converted. The score was 3-14 with 10 minutes of the half left.
Combe's midfield defence were being put through their paces as Beckenham built up a good head of steam. The forwards also had to be on their defensive mettle as the home side secured good position around the 10m line and a number of mauls and pick and goes had to be kept at bay. But it was Combe who scored next. A dropped Beckenham ball handed possession to the visitors and, when winger Lespierre got hands on the ball, he need no second invite to run in the try from 50 metres out beating 3 defenders en route.
Half time Beckenham 3-19 Westcombe Park
If Combe thought they could relax a Beckenham try 5 minutes into the second period put paid to that. The home side again camped in the visitors 22 and, from a lineout 5 metres out, secured clean ball to get good momentum for the pack to drive over for an unconverted try. 8-19.
Beckenham continued to pressurise the visitors but a number of promising opportunities came to naught with the homeside backs being over eager resulting in a number of dropped balls. The visitors were that bit slicker in attack and, when another Beckenham attack fizzled out, Lespierre was on hand to run in his second try of the day from distance and with it Combe's try bonus point. Harrison kicked the conversion and with 20 minutes to go Combe led 26-8.
That lead increased to 33-8 when Combe's scrum produced premium ball for winger Dan Hamilton to outpace a tiring home defence for the visitors's fifth try. Harrison obliged with the conversion. But to Beckenham's credit they didn't give up and scored a well worked second try from a lineout catch and drive. Combe tried hard to finish on a high with Sansbury, Hamilton and Lespierre all making impressive runs but given the big occasion for Beckenham it was probably only right that they had the last score of the day.
A great day at Beckenham and probably fitting that the Goddington Dene side were the visitors to enjoy the hospitality and fun as the homeside continued their celebrations into the night. Back to Combe for next week's match against another promoted side, Belzise Park.
Report by John Vallely