Bright start then an uphill battle to defeat
- Sunday, 27 November 2016
After leading at half-time for the first time this season scoring three tries, a very inexperienced 1st XV conceded 31 unanswered points on the Dover slope and went down 46-18 for their eleventh successive defeat yesterday writes Brian Seeeny.
On the 70th anniversary of the club's formation, Gos clearly stunned the Sharks in the early stages. It can't have been what the side immediately above bottom placed Gos expected.
After just four minutes, Gos went ahead from the boot of Tom Lewis who switched from full back to fly half as Alex Cooksley had to drop out the day before with a reaction to his foot injury following training. That was just another name to add to the long list of missing men.
Although Dover levelled within three minutes, Gos hit the Sharks with two tries in five minutes, both slick handling moves which ended with David Cleary scoring in the 27th minute and 23-year-old debut maker Sam Finlay, the late call up for Cooksley, going over for the second.
The Sharks rallied with their first try in the 36th minute which was followed by yellow cards for prop Nathan Titchener and the Dover hooker who were scuffling off the ball.
A high tackle resulted in the Sharks being reduced to 13 men and flanker Grant Hill took full advantage for the third Gos try after 44 minutes and for 8-18.
Unfortunately Gos couldn't cope with the sustained Sharks' pressure that followed and in the tenth minute of time added on, they converted their second try for 15-18 at half-time.
Playing up the slope after the break, within two minutes of the restart it was 20-18 and then Dover settled into their stride, scoring tries in the 55th, 60th, 69th and 79th minutes, converting three of those.
David Cleary scoring the first Gos try. Photo: Chris Roberts. More pictures in the Photo Gallery now.
Gos ran out of steam, they fell off tackles and in the end it was just too much for a team decimated by injuries and unavailability with at least 18 players not part of this 12-hour round trip to deepest Kent.
Those who were though played with pride and effort positively bursting out of their shirts - Max Page was outstanding with skipper Wes Dugan getting Dover's man-of-the-match award. It was, from everyone, a performance worthy of the club's 70th birthday even though the game ended in defeat once again..
"The first half was very pleasing but I thought we spoilt it by letting in a soft try at the end. But it was good to turn around at half-time having scored three tries and being 15-18 up," said Head Coach Barry Bridgman.
"Unfortunately playing against the slope in the second half turned it on its head. We had lost the toss and going up the hill we were against a comparative nine-man pack because they must have been 14-15 stone heavier than us. So even without any push going on it was difficult, especially in the second half.
"Our forwards were battling trying to hold the scrum and the consequence of that was they were tiring quickly and then the gaps started to appear in the second half
"We changed tactics from last week and some of that worked and was good and that was a positive that we learnt from last week. What we did and what we attempted to do seemed to come off bearing in mind the inexperience of the side we had out there.
"We didn't look like underdogs in the first half and I think Dover would have been worried at half time and must have given themselves a severe talking-to.
"They changed their tactics and they changed a couple of players and they started to rumble up front rather than spreading the ball to their backs as they did in the first half. They made us more and more tired and we had injuries so we had to use our entire bench.
"At the end of the day everybody tried hard and it was pleasing to see the inexperienced players playing well."
Gos remain rooted to the bottom of the London 1 South table with just the single losing bonus point whilst Dover, who now have 10 points, overtook both Brighton (now eight points) and Chiswick (now nine points). It is a battle of two from those three to go down with Gos...