With Captain 'Gruff' Thomas away on International duty and the mainstay of the squad playing for the Vets in the Evergreen competition, this was a much younger Medway 'A' side than usual, led by Captain for the day Dean Avery, that stand in Manager 'Alpatchino' took to Sittingbourne. Our hosts fielded an experienced side with a little youth of their own thrown in for good measure and should be congratulated for making a fine game of it, given that some of their numbers had already played once this afternoon, along with the referee.
Sittingbourne kicked off and the first meaningful action of the game came with Medway winning a line out in Sittingbourne's half and moving the ball through the hands. Fly Half Wardzynski threw a trademark dummy and went for the left hand corner where some determined Sittingbourne defending held him up. From the resulting five metre scrum Medway locked out against their bigger more experienced opponents allowing Davies to pick up at Eight and make for the line where he powered over for the first score of the game, converted by Wardzynski, 0-7 Medway.
Sittingbourne restarted and decided to kick high and deep for a while. The first attempt found the 'A' Full Back, Jinks, who took the ball cleanly before launching his own 'up and under'. He chased his kick hard and as the receiving Sittingbourne player caught it, Jinks nailed him with a crunching tackle. Wind forward two minutes and the two sides replayed the move with the same result, another crunching Jinks' tackle. Medway was playing to 'the plan' and were keeping the ball alive whilst Sittingbourne looked to slow the game down and kick for territory. More good hands from Medway saw the ball to Marriott, coming into the line, but he was hit hard on the charge by two Sittingbourne defenders. He protected the ball well and from the resulting ruck Medway were on the charge again spraying the ball wide but a clever steal from the opposition's Inside Centre put Medway on the back foot. Sittingbourne drove hard and, prompted by their talented and busy Scrum Half, got inside Medway's fifteen. This promising position was lost though as some determined work at the ruck by Jackson and Thompson gained turnover ball and Wardzynski kicked deep and clear. It was a horrible bounce for the covering defenders and James Avery and then Cole were up on it to fly hack towards the opposition's goal. The two Medway lads and Sittingbourne's cover all arrived over the line together and 'someone' touched down. The Referee, caught by the speed of the break and giving his decision from the twenty-two, decided that it was a Sittingbourne hand so the score stayed at 0-7 to Medway.
Next up came a charge led by Byrne, ably supported by Ed, through a gap that wasn't originally there. As he made his way into the opposition fifteen the move was ended by more determined Sittingbourne defending. From the resulting ruck the eager Sittingbourne defenders were caught offside but the Referee played an excellent advantage that allowed Wardzynski to break through for a try that he converted himself. 0-14 Medway.
Medway's youngsters are encouraged to follow the example of the Club's more senior players but this led to a mild rebuke for Brown as, in his own ten at the back of a ruck, he opted to launch a 'Collings' like box kick up the pitch. Alpatchino's rebuke was only mild because the kick took Medway back into the Sittingbourne half and Brown isn't Welsh. The pack were working hard and securing ball which Medway's stand in scrum half, 'Bok' Clarke, was spraying well. With Wardzynski pulling the strings, well supported by the Avery brothers and their wing men, Hickman and Cole, more points always looked likely. One drive got Medway good field position deep in their opposition's half and Wardzynski just failed with an attempted drop kick. Not long passed and Medway were back in the twenty two and they moved the ball through the hands again, releasing Dean Avery who, with a decent hand off, charged to the left hand corner for an unconverted try and a 0-19 lead.
Gamely Sittingbourne came back at Medway and through a series of drives gained a penalty which they elected to kick at the posts but narrowly missed. Not deterred, back they came and they were rewarded with another penalty on the five metre line. A tap and go move allowed Sittingbourne to release their bulky prop and despite the attentions of Medway's guards he drove over the line for an unconverted try and a 5-19 score. With half time looming there was just enough time for another searing Jinks run that was held just short, some more fine hands that put Hickman away down the left wing only to be held short, and then some great interchange and hands involving Cole, Lowery and Thompson that saw the last bundled into touch just short. Half time saw Medway 5-19 to the good.
More of the same was Alpatchino's request as he sent the lads back out for the second half. Byrne, who'd had a fine half, made way for Thompson at Hooker with Irons being sent on at Flanker. Hickman also made way for Masere on the wing. Wardzynski got the second half under way and his well judged kick was taken brilliantly in the air by Davies who presented the ball. Up in numbers, Medway went quick to the backs and Dean Avery was away through a gap for a try in the right hand corner, converted by Wardzynski, 5-26 Medway. From the restart exchanges were even for a while but a fine Dean Avery steal saw him on the charge again, right to left. He drew the covering defender before off loading to Cole who went over for another try, converted by Wardzynski, 5-33 and a great start to the second half.
Next up a Lowery break which was thwarted by Sittingbourne who then secured turnover ball. A charge out by the Sittingbourne Seven saw a brilliant cover tackle by Jinks, stopping an almost certain try. Another break from Sittingbourne's prop was halted by a double up tackle from James Avery and Marriott. This was to be Sittingbourne's best spell of the game as they drove hard going through the phases and the pressure told for a while as the penalty count went up as Medway's youngsters struggled to maintain their discipline. With twenty minutes to go on went Morgan for Cole and Hickman returned for Brown at Lock. Cue some calming words from their Captain and Medway were back in the groove again. Another Dean Avery steal saw the ball through the hands again to Masere who off loaded inside to Morgan who was held short. The ball was presented back and it was hands left from Lowery, the Avery brothers and then Morgan on the left wing who was bundled into touch. The kick clear by Sittingbourne was right down Morgan's throat who returned with interest on the charge up to the fifteen metre line. Sittingbourne somehow stole the ball but Dean Avery put in a solid tackle and, coming through the gate, Irons picked up and drove forward. Turnover followed turnover for a while and a Sittingbourne break out was halted with a double up tackle from Hickman and Thompson. The ball was stolen by Medway at the ruck and good hands put Hickman away down the left who cut inside before off loading to Marriott in support. Going to ground he laid the ball back and Clarke slipped a short pass to Wardzynski who saw the gap and ran in another try and a 5-38 scoreline in Medway's favour.
Taking the kick off Medway set themselves up in midfield and slipped the ball to Dean Avery who spotted a gap in Sittingbourne's stretched defence and charged through for his third try of the game, which he converted with a drop kick. 5-45. There was enough time for another break out led by James Avery who fed Hickman who in turn put Morgan away but he was held short. The ball was fed the other way but eventually lost foward and that was that, a fine 5-45 win for the 'A' Squad of Medway.
Sittingbourne were, as always, great hosts and never gave up on the game. Those of them that had already played must be congratulated for taking part and contributing to this entertaining game which was never as one sided as the scoreline suggests. For Medway, every single player had fine games. The platform for the victory came from the pack, led by Thompson, who were awesome as a collective, cherishing and protecting the ball when they needed, and presenting plenty of ball for the young and speedy back division to do their thing, which they did in a thoroughly professional and effective manner. Dean Avery was a fine Captain on the day leading his troops from the front and scoring three try's into the bargain. However, stand out performer was Jinks who dealt with the high ball brilliantly, always returning it with interest and driving Medway through the gain line. Coupled with some awesome cover tackles he was well deserving of the accolade 'Man of the Match' - well done Jinks!
Scribe: Pat 'Alpatchino' Nolan