A second tough away fixture this week against another promotion contender in Westcombe Pk who have recruited strongly in the close season. Darts having been hit by injuries throughout the start of the season mhad to make 9 changes to the team bringing in Harry Clayton at Hooker for his first team debut. The club having lost the services of Head Coach Bob Hussey did not have ideal preparation but the foundations laid down by Bob over the last 5 years willleave the club in good shape . It was a fast start by Combe who were quick to try and use their rapid wingers trying to stretch the Darts defence which held up really well untill one missed tackle created the space for the home side to score via their right winger. 7-0. Darts got into the match and pushed play into the Combe half and forced a penalty which was narrowly missed by Jonny. The visitors were not helped when Alex Vousden had to leave the field with an injured shoulder which allowed Paddy Briggs to enter the fray. Long passing by Combe gave Combe a great opportunity to score their second through the same player. 14-0. The ball was turned over and a counterattack saw Darts advance play but a kick through was well taken and this put Darts on the back foot again. Combe had a player binned but a promising attack from the visitors was lost when they mishandled the ball and the counterattack took full advantage of theis and a thrid try was scored. 19-0. Darts were competing well in the forwards with Luke Golding leading from the front backed up by Paddy Briggs who was great in both the tight and the loose carrying strongly and another promising move by Darts taking the ball inrto the Combe half omnly ended again when Darts failed to take care of the ball. Again it was rapid count play which saw the pace out wide combining with a great runnng line from the No 8 to take the lead to 26-0. Darts were maybe guity of trying to play at the same pace as Combe but when they kept the ball tight they looked far more comfortable. This lead to an interception by Joe Scott when we put Combe on the back foot and took the score at halftime to 26-5.
Darts started the second half well driving in the forwards keeping the ball tight in an effort to starve the fast Cpmbe backs of the ball but again it was losing the ball in contact that allowed the big fast left winger to get the ball 70 metres out and race impressively to the line. 31-5. It was difficult for Darts on a really hot day with the pace of the match and unsurpisingly some gaps were beginning to appear which the pacy Combe back line were abe to exploit. The Darts team showed their character by never giving up and continued to try and play some rugby but it was difficult when it was a day when all their mistakes were ruthlessly exploited. Luke Golding and Paddy Briggs were driving forward and Louis Chapman and Ryan Chandler were putting in good shifts and a try scoring opportunity was again foiled by a missed pass. To rub salt into the wounds a final try was scored from a blatant forward pass to end the match at 65-5.
Dart scrum and lineout worked wel with Jamie Clifford securing good ball, young Kieran Clarke and debutant Harry Clayton worked their socks as did Harry Golding who worked tirelessly throughout the match. Joe Wheeler came on the second half but was unable to stem the flow of the Combe backs whose pace gave the Darts backs a difficult time.
It is clear that the league is going to be two tiered and Combe will be in the upper tire but Darts worked hard against the odds and will when able to select from a full squad be a competitive team.
Paddy Briggs and Luke Golding were outstanding and were awrded jointly the player of the match award.
Next week Darts host another top side Thurrock.