Old Gs get the job done against Footscray
By Matt Holdstock
Old Gravesendians 47 Footscray 12
Old Gs secured a dominant 47-12 home victory vs Footscray - running in 6 tries from Grant Roe (2), Frazer Barnes, James Hood, Ash Bourne and Ryan Lockyer. 17 points from the boot of Matt Thompson completed the points haul.
On a glorious day for rugby and watched by a large crowd that had enjoyed a splendid pre match lunch, Old Gs were in the ascendency in the opening stages of the game. Straight from the kick off Old Gs piled forward, Andrew Kidd taking a quick tap penalty after being taken out in the air and racing away upfield. Old Gs went through the phases with Chris Johnson making further headway, winning a penalty for his side which Matt Thompson dispatched through the posts from 40 yards for an early 3-0 advantage.
Despite the early pressure, Old Gs soon let their guard down. The Footscray forwards barged through some lacklustre Old Gs fringe defence, recycled the ball well and their fly half released their full back who flew through the Old Gs centres to dart over and bring the home side back down to earth with a bang, 3-5.
Old Gs came straight back into the game as they capitalised on their superiority out wide. Mike Hodge and Matt Thompson set Chris Johnson free up the touchline. He combined with Andrew Kidd and Will McArthur who was excelling with ball in hand on his full first team debut. McArthur found Johnson once again who was hauled short but found a deft offload from the floor to supporting scrum half Grant Roe who dived over. Matt Thompson nailed the conversion and Old Gs led 10-5.
Despite Old Gs hoping that this would open the floodgates, a proud Footscray side were intent on defying their lowly league position and came surging back forward. They used their powerful forward runners, well marshalled by their scrum half, to hammer into the Old Gs defence, with only scramble defence from Chris Johnson and an Andy Morris turnover on his own line preventing the away side from adding to their tally.
Footscray also held the advantage in the scrum, and after a reshuffle with Joe Martin leaving the fray with injury, replaced by Ash Bourne who has worked back to fitness, Old Gs number 8 Chris Daniels was battling hard to get the ball out from the base of the scrum and get his side moving forward once again.
Old Gs back 3 of Steve Thompson, James Hood and Chris Johnson were causing Footscray all sorts of trouble out wide and it was Hood that set Old Gs on their way for the next score, making 50 yards dancing up the right touchline. The ball was retained with Andrew Kidd, Andy Morris and Frazer Barnes combining with the slight of hand that the forwards have developed under coach Andy Miller, to set Will McArthur off towards the line. Whilst he was stopped just short of a debut try he showed slight of hand to offload one handed to Grant Roe who crossed for his second try of the contest. The conversion slipped wide, 15-5.
Once again the visitors refused to lay down and accept their potential fate – showing endeavour that belies the relegation battle that they are consumed in. Their forwards probed and found gaps through the Old Gs fringes as their number 8 ploughed upfield. They went through the phases and moved the ball wide as their winger dived over in the corner despite the best efforts of the Old Gs covering defence. The excellent conversion made it 15-12.
Their hard work was undone soon after though as a high tackle in midfield allowed Matt Thompson to add a further three points to his own tally and take him through the 200 points mark for the season. 18-12.
Chris Daniels and Andrew Kidd had been excellent in open play, making good territory with ball in hand, well supported by Ash Bourne who was adding a welcome element of aggression to his sides play. Further out Will McArthur looked right at home on his first 1st team start - and despite a yellow card for Steve Thompson for an infringement at the breakdown Old Gs controlled the remaining exchanges of the half despite not troubling the scorers any further.
Half Time - Old Gs 18 Footscray 12.
Turning round in the second half, Old Gs knew that a high tempo would wear down and tire the Footscray forwards - and so it proved as they eventually ran in 29 unanswered points in the second stanza.
Looking to put the game to bed early in the half, a further three points from the boot of Matt Thompson, after Footscray conceded a penalty in front of the posts, extended the lead to 21-12.
The play was now all with Old Gs, and whilst Footscray remained strong in the set piece, Old Gs were in the ascendency out wide and when they showed good continuity in open play. Hood, McArthur and Steve Thompson were all impressing with ball in hand, providing the platform for Old Gs forwards to charge upfield. hit some good lines that enabled some structured phaseplay to come to the fore..
A deserved try soon arrived. From a 5 man line out Ash Bourne carried hard. Mike Hodge saw the opportunity to roll back the years to dummy and slide through the Footscray defensive line. He shipped the ball to Matt Thompson who made the easy pass to skipper Frazer Barnes who ambled over for his first try of the season. The conversion from Thompson, who was having an excellent day off the tee, made it 28-12.
Footscray then went down to 14 men, with a high tackle on Steve Thompson as he looked to get over in the corner, seeing their flanker have a 10 minute rest. Kicking the penalty to the corner Old Gs piled over the line from the catch and drive line out, Ash Bourne coming up with the score on his return to the team. The conversion from Thompson made it 35-12.
Old Gs were now for putting the foot to the floor, and despite a couple of mistakes after high risk offloads from the Old Gs Globetrotters, when simple ball retention was required, they soon added a further try as Ryan Lockyer flew over in the corner with his first touch having joined the fray as a replacement. Thompson converted once again, 42-12.
One further try completed the performance. Frazer Barnes and Ryan Lockyer combined up the right touchline and whilst Lockyer was hauled down by a proud hardworking Footscray defence, Andy Morris continued the play, carrying hard into the tiring Footscray defence to set a great platform. Hodge and Matt Thompson combined to find James Hood out wide who finished well for a deserved try having made huge gains with ball in hand all afternoon (he even made a tackle too). 47-12.
Full time - Old Gravesendians 47 Footscray 12
This was a solid if yet unspectacular performance from Old Gs, who fully deserved their victory. Andrew Kidd and Chris Daniels impressed in the performance as would be expected from the duo who never seem to have a bad game, as did Andy Morris and Frazer Barnes who both impressed in the second row. Ash Bourne added a much needed physical edge to Old Gs play on his return from the treatment table. In the backline, Will McArthur looked right at home in the 13 shirt and shined throughout, with Steve Thompson tireless in attack and defence for the cause.
A note to Footscray who played a full part in the game. When retaining the ball in the forwards they caused Old Gs problems - with Old Gs being able to capitalise as their pack tired later in the game. However they never stopped plugging away and as a friendly side that play the game in the right spirits Old Gs wish them well as they look to retain their Kent 1 status.
Old Gs remain 4th in Kent 1 and travel to Whitstable next week for their final fixture of the season.