The future is bright for Gravesend Rugby Club despite their Academy team getting knocked out of the National Colts Competition in the cruelest of circumstances on Sunday.
Buoyed on by a large and partisan crowd the Gravesend Academy team (Under 17 & Under 18 players) drew 21-21 with a well organised Trojans RFC who had made the long journey up from Southampton for this Last 32 match . The rules of the competition, however, dictate that in the event of a draw the boys are not allowed to play any extra-time and the match shall be decided on tries scored and if equal conversions. In the event of both of these being equal, which it was on Sunday, the Away team wins.
The game itself was equally dramatic with a clearly pumped up Gravesend team keen to make the most of home advantage. This over enthusiasm lead to a lack of composure and despite a good first 5 mins Gravesend were trying to force the game instead on playing to their strengths. A clearance from deep did not find touch and saw the impressive Trojans advance through several phases of driving play to score, with the conversion added . Gs fought back strongly and with the line-out working well territory was proving key. After a period of sustained pressure Samraj Chahal drove for the line. Initially stopped short he was able to reach out and score for the home side, George Bruce calmly slotted the conversion to level the scores at 7-7. The remainder of the half saw play switch from first one end to the other and the large crowd were treated to some fine attacking rugby. Despite this no further points in the half saw the teams turn round level.
Cameron Wilkins was introduced at half-time and immediately made his presence felt winning good ball in the middle of the park. Gs advanced through a number of phases before the ball was passed out to Wilkins of ran between the covering defence to score under the posts. With the additional two points for the conversion added it was game on an Gs were 14-7 up. Thereafter, Gs looked like they were going to take the game by the scruff of the neck as after a sustained period of play they crossed the line twice only to be held up by the defence. When finally they did break through they were unable to gather the ball cleanly and ground it over the line.
Trojans were a tough opposition with some outstanding individual players and so it was no surprise they can back strongly. Their second try came after some direct running by the tall (and I mean extremely tall centre) and a third was to follow after a long clearance downfield bounced kindly and from the resulting line-out they were able to catch and drive the ball over by the corner flag. The impressive number 10 from Trojans kicked both conversions, the second of which was from far out wide and the enormity of which was only to sink in at the final whistle. With 4 minutes left on the clock there was still time for Gravesend to force their way back into the game and after a fine passage of play Joe Haffenden forced his way over. With George Bruce kicking the conversion the referee called a halt to the afternoon’s activity and Gravesend were left to rue what may have been.
The large crowd gave both sets of players a rousing ovation to what had been a fine game of rugby. 2 years ago Gravesend had no Under 17 or Under 18 sides but with the evolution of the Academy seems to be going from strength to strength. Many of the 300 Mini &Youth players were there to watch the game and in a few years we hope to see many of them playing at this level.
See the Trojan's report - http://www.trojansrugby.co.uk/teams/129954/match-centre/0-3428456
Photo's from the game - https://www.flickr.com/photos/126397400@N07/albums/72157680555154815
Words from Mark Bruce - Mini & Youth Chairman - GRFC
Updated 18:11 - 21 Mar 2017 by Sue Barnes