Gannets secure losing bonus point against league's newly formed club
Gravesend score the first and last points of the match on the main pitch but cannot find enough in the middle to secure the victory
Following the struggles of previous weeks the Gannets somehow had over 25 players available by Tuesday evening for their first home league fixture of the season, following the cancellation of the match against Maidstone the previous week. This saw Peter Stone, Sam Holden and Garrick Smith take the trip to Beccehamians to bolster the moles, but we will look forward to the return of all three of them in the coming weeks.
Being a newly formed side it was perhaps unsurprising that Swanley also had an extended squad of players available to them, so fortunately the remaining players were able to be kept in the squad for the match.
Shortly before kick off the third team match against Lordswood, which was scheduled for the main pitch, was abandoned when the opposition called to say they would be not coming, so the fourth team fixture was bumped up and played in the front of the clubhouse on the big pitch, and in front of the majority of the third team players who took the opportunity to begin their drinking for the day a couple of hours early in the club's newly constructed dugouts. Thank you to those players for their support and to the players who stepped in when we had a couple of no shows with players stuck at work and not recovered from injury.
From the kick off by the Swanley fly half the Gannets handed an early advantage to their opponents by allowing the ball to find touch within their 22. Fortunately they were able to clear their lines with a strong maul, albeit that ended in a scrum for the opposition when the referee's call to use the ball was not heeded, and much of the early match was played between the two 22s. When the home side did get a line out in the opposition 22 about half way through the first half they tried to set up and a catch drive but were not met by their opposition. They were allowed to carry on by the referee, leading to an uncontested try much to the dismay of the opposition. The referee was however vocal in the lead up in his interpretation that the maul was legal.
Swanley fought back and secured their first score with a move off of the back of a midfield scrum, their impressive number 6 taking the offload and running through under the posts. The conversion pushed them into the lead 7-5. A second try before half time with the Gravesend defence stretched saw half time arrive with the score 14-5.
A couple of changes at half time saw the introduction of fresh legs and Gravesend looking to get themselves back into the game. A big hit from the kick off by Melon put the visitors under pressure and led to a penalty for Gravesend, which Aaron struck over the posts to narrow the gap, after Perri had injured his ankle and been one of those replaced at the interval. Gravesend continued to make chances for themselves but a combination of a lack of accuracy, poor discipline in conceding too many penalties and a loss of organisation at the lineout meant that they often contrived to put themselves back onto the back foot. There were still positives to take however in good breaks by Joe Gilhooly and Steve Wootton in the centres and the carrying from the forward pack.
That poor discipline presented Swanley with a penalty in front of the posts which they converted and then unfortunately there was (at least) one knock on too many when Swanley scored another try off of a scrum, this time with a well worked move in their backs to extend their lead to 24-8.
The Gannets regrouped and for the final 15 minutes applied themselves with the initial focus on at least taking a losing bonus point from a competitive match. A penalty shortly after the Swanley try got this started but then progress towards this goal was hindered first by an unawarded try from a maul where the grounding was not seen by the referee and the subsequent scrum lost against the head to allow Swanley to clear their lines, and then by constant infringement in defence within their own 22 by the visitors which served to disrupt the Gravesend attack. The referee was not however satisfied that there were enough repeat offences to award a penalty try.
Numerous attempts to batter their way to the tryline were repelled by Swanley and a lack of clear thinking meant that Gravesend wasted numerous overlaps off of second and third phase ball where a try might have been possible out wide. As the indiscretions increased so did the temperature of the game and to the discredit of the players the competitive nature boiled over a couple of times as the final whistle approached. After collecting themselves for one final lineout on the last play of the game, Gravesend finally managed to show a cool enough head to play a couple of phases and battle their way to the foot of the posts, where Ashley Tester was on hand to pick up the ball and dot down for a try. The conversion from Aaron closed the margin of victory for Swanley to 6 points and meant the Gannets at least took 2 points away from their afternoons endeavours.
In the immediate aftermath of the game there was disappointment amongst the Gravesend side that opportunities had been squandered that might have meant we could have been fighting for the win at the end, but the result is nonetheless something on which to build as the season progresses and will hopefully provide motivation for the return fixture later in the season.
Another tough encounter awaits for the Gannets next week when Sevenoaks IVs visit as they will be looking to continue their as yet unbeaten start to their league campaign.