Sevenoaks drove home a compelling 37-12 victory over Dartfordians on Saturday to move into 3rd slot in London 1 South.
Wet, windy and muddy conditions at Knole Paddock meant it was never going to be a day for running rugger. As the mud bath drew to a close, telling Oaks players apart from Darts had become a sport in itself. Very little purchase underfoot presented difficulty for the backs, bringing kicking for territory and an attritional forwards battle to centre stage.
Oaks opened and closed the game of three thirds in style, faced by a strong Darts outfit that hit back hard and held firm for swathes of the match’s middle section. If the final scoreline flatters the navy and golds it also demonstrates Oaks’ capacity to play strong for the full 80 minutes.
Oaks’ early pressure in high field positions was rewarded in the shape of two penalties for Ben Adams to slot over the posts and converted tries for flanker Will de Smith, rumbling over from close quarters, and wing Johnny Short skipping and slipping through the Darts defence to make a welcome return to the scoresheet – so far so good as Darts had also notched up a converted try of their own to make it 20-7 to Oaks at the half time break.
Darts was the better side for the first 20 minutes of the second half, and while outstanding line speed from the Oaks, Nigel Gumbleton in particular putting in a series of strong hits, helped them maintain the ascendancy the visitors demonstrated the patience these conditions demand to stay very much in contention. At 20-12 following a Darts try they continued to push hard and the game was afoot for anyone that could find their feet.
Then, as if roused from a slumber, Oaks sprang to life in the final quarter to close out the match in the only way the conditions would permit; strong forays by the likes of Alex Suttie, Scott Sedgwick and Josh Pettet into Darts territory resulting in three tries that owed much to those faithful friends; carry, composure and control. The Oaks 2nd XV also put away Darts 55-5 playing on the adjacent pitch, to make it an excellent double for the boys from the Paddock.
Sevenoaks Rugby 1st XV hits the road next Saturday and heads to Chichester RFC, 2:00pm kick off and all support very welcome.
Dartfordians is one year older than Sevenoaks, formed in 1924 versus 1925 and the sides have enjoyed a friendly rivalry ever since. Many have played for both Darts and Oaks down the years, and mutual and much respected absent friend Ron Standen straddles the two Clubs as an exemplary pillar of the grass roots game. As well as a Dartfordians great Ron performed several highly regarded coaching stints for the Oaks.
Saturday’s match and the return fixture at Darts see the two Clubs competing for the inaugural Ron Standen Cup, to honour Ron and the standards he set for us all to follow.