On a miserable wet and windy day Darts renewd their rivalry with Sevenoaks who have had a couple of good seasons in London 1and are riding high in the league this season. Sevenoaks started well with concerted pressure inside th Darts 22 which resulted in penalties and from the second they took the lead. 3-0. They kept this up for the first 6 or 7 minutes and when Darts seemed to be harshly penalised ntwice for high tackles the lead was extended to 6-0. Darts finally got into their rythmn and their continuity play was outstanding taking the ball on close to the breakdown and play moved inside the home 22. The team were rewarded with a penalty but this went narrowly wide of the posts. Sevenoaks moved play into Darts half and when they had a scrum the ball was moved to their blind side winger who went through two missed tackles to score their first try which was also converted. 13-0. Tom Duggan was sin binned for looked like an accidental kicking of the ball in the ruck and to rub salt into the wound he was replaced due to injury. This saw Sam Allen come on for his first run out in the team for two years following serious knee surgery. Darts again put on some tremendous pressure again showing great teamwork and skill in controlling the ball in atrocious conditions and moved deep into the opposition 22 with Dan Nukajam making some great powerful runs. Playing the ball close to the breakdown this concerted pressure resulted in 4 successive penaltis 5 metres from the line and eventually it was Sam Allen who went over, Mike Briggs converted. 13-7. It was now a really good evenly contested match with Darts maybe just in the ascendancy but a mistake in midfield saw the ball fly hacked deep into the Darts 22 and full back Liam Brencher could only put the ball out of play. From the lineout Sevenoaks again used their big players to drive the ball close to the Darts line and inevitably this saw the home side score their second try. 20-7. This was the score at half time which was evenly matched and all to play for in the second half.
Darts started the second half brightly pushing play into the home 22 and it was only the ofdd mistake in the conditions which allowed Sevenoaks to clear their lines however this didn't deter the young Darts team who kept up the good continuity play which resulted in the home side conceding more penalties. Eventually another penalty ended up with a yellow card. More pressure from the visitors but great defence kept them out but although missing out on taking advantage of the extra player they did eventually score. Great play forced another penalty and from the ensuing lineout Darts set up a driving maul and it was Kenny Lee who went over to narrow the gap to 22-12. It now really looked like Darts would get something out of the match and they kept up their good tight pattern of play. On a day that was not great for backs the rconstituted back line did really well with Kieron Ryan doing really well on his first run out at 9, Tom Selley coming in at centre held his own as did skipper Si Briggs who was in the centre moving from his normal position at flanker. The sevenoaks defence was really strong and very well organised and also when they had the ball they moved into the Darts half. on 65 minutes a crucial decision changed the dynamics of the match when SamAllen was yellow carded and for the first time in the match the home forwards started to get on top using their size and power on a difficult pitch when going backwards. Matt Dunne came on making his league debut in the centre and first match for over a year and was not out of place. It was a match for the forwards and the home ones proceeded to score three late tries which took the final score to 37-12 and a bonus point win for the home side. While the home side deserved their win Darts can consider themselves slightly unfortunate no to leave with something out of this match. The home defence was outstanding and they were more clinical showing how much they have learnt since getting promoted into London 1 and will be a tough side to beat for the rest of the season. Darts showed they can compete at this level and deserve to be in the league and with each match they are learning how to manage the extra pressures at this level.
Head coach Bob Hussey was full of praise for his team who competed really well for 65 minutes of the match and despite many changes we have had to make played some really great rugby was proud to see the skill and committment from every player throughout the match.
Sevenoaks hosted a great VP's lunch before the match when it was announced that the clubs would compete for the Ron Standen Trophy in memory of Ron who played and coached for many years at Darts as well as coaching successfully at Sevenoaks for 7 years. This will be won on the aggregate scores of the 1st and 2nd team matches home and away during the season.