By Simon Arnett
We ventured into Kent for the third time this season to play Westcombe Park, a side we had never played before. However, there is rarely an easy game in Kent and this proved no different. A few late unavailabilities meant for some reorganisation, but we still went into the game with a strong team.
The tackles in the early stages were uncompromising from both sides, and there was definitely an edge which occasionally spilled over. Joe Stone was on the end of an illegal and dangerous tackle that was unfortunately unseen by the referee, and he was lucky to escape injury.
We had our chances, but it was the home team who scored first against the run of play. Having escaped from their half, they carried the ball with purpose and fashioned an overlap on their right to score an unconverted try. 5-0.
Dorking responded well with some powerful phases of play carrying the ball into Park territory. A superb team effort followed, with several of the forwards moving the ball deftly to Stone, who threw a subtle dummy and carved back inside only to be stopped just short. However, Tom Whittenbury was following up and on the shoulder to take the pass and the prop rumbled over. Finn Rennles converted. 5-7.
From the kick off Raich Hudson caught the ball and burst through the Park defence to put us back on the attack. This was a feature of the game with Hudson playing a blinder both in attack and defence punching holes in the Park defence.
Park missed a late penalty kick for goal and we finished the half with a slender lead.
In the second half, our scrum, which dominated for much of the first half, was showing the strain as Park brought in reinforcements, and for some time we struggled to have any impact. But we managed to gain some territory, and from the base of the twisting scrum Toby Arnett picked and passed and the ball made its way to Rennles who sidestepped his way past the defenders to stretch and score. No conversion this time but we were up 5-12.
This is the point when we should have kicked on and taken the game away from the home side. But similar to recent matches, we allowed the opposition a foothold. This was gratefully accepted and Park started to dominate possession. Our tackling was robust with one big hit of note coming in from Arnett driving back one sizable attacker, but Park’s offload game was good and they found space and momentum with Jed Brockes making a last-ditch ankle-high try-saving tackle.
We couldn’t hold on though and Park scored two late tries in the top right corner in very similar circumstances. We tried to rally with a couple of opportunities deep in their half but the ball was spilled and the match was gone.
This was another match we should have won but failed to hold a lead only to lose by a very tight margin. As always, there are positives and learnings to take away.
Sadly, with the RFU decision to suspend all rugby, this could be our last game of the season, so those lessons may have to wait until next season. Watch this space.
Tries: Whttenbury, Rennles