Gravesend triumph in Kent Cup final
By Mike CUBITT
To say that this final was looking to be a one sided affair would be an understatement, such was the dominance of the Gravesend pack.
Gravesend 27-24 Blackheath
With a second league and cup double during his seven years as Chairman, Graham Haggar could not hide his delight when the final whistle was blown to end the game. After the game Graham said “In this my last year as Chairman of GRFC, it brings so much pleasure to know that the support I have enjoyed, from players and officials, has brought so much deserved reward to the club.”
He went on to say that he was already looking forward to the encounters at National 3, and is certain that the current squad will have no problems in acquitting themselves at the higher level.
Club Captain, Ashley Moorey said, after he had received the Cup from Kent President Tim Fagg, “This win double goes some way to compensate for the disappointment of last year and it has been great to be part of a squad made up from such dedicated players.”
Gravesend travelled to Footscray Rugby Club on the last Sunday in April, looking to add the Kent Cup trophy to the league title they had secured a fortnight earlier, and hoping to make this a second league and cup double in four years, and a third cup win over the same period.
Playing with the slight slope, but against a strong north east wind, Gs were quick to disrupt their “senior” opposition as they had Blackheath going backwards on their own ball at the set pieces. A series of penalties against Blackheath saw the strong wind hold the first two goal attempts up, before Miki Zanirato slotted one between the uprights on fourteen minutes.
It was very much the town XV that were in command at the set scrummage, and were able to disrupt the Club line-outs, it was only use of the strong wind that put Gs back in their own territory, but this was short lived.
A steady front row, and a driving pack that meant that Gs were enjoying ball going forwards, with Sox Stevens in control at the base, Zanirato had time to choose whether to play tight with the forwards of release his backs through Gary Gray, either way Blackheath were on the back foot.
It wasn’t until the twenty-seventh minute, following a long period of Gravesend pressure inside the twenty-two, that a scrum five was pushed to near the line, Stevens was stopped short, but the recycled ball was again set for the drive and it was no coincidence that Adam Aigbokhae was in possession at the touch down.
The successful kick from the tee eased Gs ahead 10-0.
The talent on show for the South East Londoners was looking to be no match for their North West Kent opposition, as time and again they were dispossessed by Gs lively back row, and with Tom Bird winning the line-out at will, it was surprising that Gs only added one more score before the break.
Superb passing play with both backs and forwards in support of each other it was no surprise when the defence stood back as Ziggy Stevens, in full flight, made his way to the line. The conversion drifted wide but Gs went in 15-0 to the good.
To say that this final was looking to be a one sided affair would be an understatement, such was the dominance of the Gravesend pack, it would be wrong to single any one of them out.
In fact there was no area on the park that Gravesend were not getting the upper hand, both going forward and in defence. Big tackles going in that stopped any progress that Blackheath tried to make.
With the breeze in their backs, Gs quickly took the game forward into the opposition territory and after driving and recycling the ball, it was Gravesend’s top try scoring flanker that received the ball near the ten metre line.
As Aigbokhae set off on a run, he sidestepped his immediate opposition and then outstripped the Club full-back and fly-half to touch down his second of the afternoon.
With little to offer up front, Blackheath were relying on the talent of their two speedy wing-three-quarters, Chris O’Neil and Dan Hamilton to get them on the board, but all their attacks were thwarted by the Gs defence.
Another Gs drive from the pack and with Blackheath unable to stem the flow, Sox Stevens touched down from the push-over, Zanirato added the extras to lift the advantage to 27-0.
As the game entered the last quarter, Gs found they were on the rough end of the refereeing decisions, which saw them lose two players to the sin bin within a minute of each other.
It still took seven minutes before Club could make the extra two men count, and having been driven back from a five metre set piece, it was the overlap through lack of numbers that let in Dan Hamilton for the score. David Marshall converted for 27-7.
As if to add insult to injury a set of progressions were awarded the Club side, and with Gs defence line stretched, they ran in a second four minutes later, through Chris O’Neil.
With the ten minutes sin-binning running into fourteen minutes the advantage was allowed to continue, and it was no surprise when a third try was run in to narrow the difference to 27-19.
With eight minutes of overtime played, Blackheath managed the one score they did deserve, which brought the final score to 27-24, highly flattering for the London XV, but a justifiable well earned victory for the Gravesend town club.
Coach Malcolm Moaby said after the game “The league and cup double is special. After the disappointment of last season to bounce back in such style is a tribute to all the players, back room staff, sponsors and members who have contributed to the team’s success.”
When asked about the future he went on to say “Planning for next season has already started and the aim is sustainability within the national leagues through recruitment and retention, increased revenue and sponsorship and the Gravesend spirit that runs at the heart of its success.”