One step forward, two steps backwards
- Sunday, 15 January 2017
"One step forward last week but two steps backwards this week" - that's how Head Coach Barry Bridgman described his side's 66-8 defeat at Gravesend yesterday in a ten try trouncing writes Brian Seeney.
After a bright start when stand-in fly half Tom Lewis kicked them into a 0-3 lead in the sixth minute, Gravesend took a 24-3 lead with four tries, two converted, in the 8th, 20th, 26th and 32nd minutes.
Skill from Lewis two minutes into time added on, lead to a try by wing Ian White when Lewis perfectly judged a cross-field kick to the winger far out on the right and it was 24-8 at the interval.
But any slim hope of a fight back were dashed with two Gravesend tries in the 45th and 49th and they went on to score regularly until the relief of the final whistle, with four more tries in the 62nd, 70th, 75th and 82nd minutes.
A superb kicking display by fly half Dave Dorton saw him convert all the second half tries having inexplicably missed two easier earlier conversions.
The Gos team was by and large the same as the one that played well against Havant but the absence of fly Alex Cooksley (unavailable) and Rory Penfold on the wing with a thigh strain picked up in a minor midweek Navy match, forced a complete reshuffle of the backline.
The Gos pack showed just one change but they could never match the home side's eight.
"Before the game I was convinced we were in with a shout for a win because of the way we played last week (against Havant) and given Gravesend's league position and the fact that we scored three tries against them at home," said Bridgman.
"We scored first with the penalty and had a couple of free-flowing moves and we looked good running with the ball. Then we seemed to go into our shell.
"We were persisting in going through the phases and it was one of those weeks again where we didn't need to get into an arm wrestle.
"We needed to play free-flowing rugby and again we waited until the half time talk to get into free-flowing rugby again but by then it was too late.
Ian White scores the Gos try yesterday. Photo: Chris Roberts. More pictures in the Photo Gallery now.
"We suffered injuries in the game that didn't help and shut down and just tried to defend our line as best we could and that didn't work.
"Gravesend were coming on to the ball hard and getting over the gain line all the time and their players were pouring into the gaps. We were losing scores at a regular rate.
"Their kicker well and truly rubbed it in with some really good kicks. It was definitely as good a kicking display as we've seen all season because a lot of those tries when we were working hard to keep them out were scored out wide.
"He was the Jonny Wilkinson of Gravesend today - an excellent kicker. I couldn't find him after the game but I wanted to go up to him and say 'well done' because his kicking was absolutely excellent.
"Our big problems today were that we couldn't get anything out of the set piece at all. Quite frankly our scrummaging was rubbish and we were getting walked all over right from minute one. And our lineout wasn't much better.
"Overall I think we tackled more than we missed but we still missed too many.
"In that first five minutes we looked really good but in the second half we were in real trouble and it unravelled completely. We were nothing like we were last week (against Havant).
"It was one step forward last week but two steps back wards this week. We couldn't compete anywhere.
"Tom (Lewis) played well enough at 10 but we missed having a proper 10 because we had to make the positional changes and shuffle players around and that affected us quite badly. It wasn't that individual players played badly but they do play better in their natural positions."
Bridgman was still able to find some positives - a debut for ex-Colt Will Larkin who "played really well" and yet another fine display from Ben Roberts who was forced to play in the second row again with Bridgman describing his tackling and all round play as "immense".
"This was very big step for Will and he acquitted himself well bearing in mind the pace of the game and the physicality. He will be a player of the future because there's a lot of promise there," said Bridgman.
"Yet again they were all still going in the 82nd minute tackling and trying. Although scores like this seem huge we don't ever give up. We make mistakes and there are errors and people fall off tackles because they are tired, but we never actually give up and that deserves credit."
A neck problem for Wayne Dugan, and HIAs for prop Daniel O'Donoghue and flanker Grant Hill and meant all three replacements were used.
Bridgman expects Dugan to recover and O'Donoghue passed his test but Hill is not available anyway because he is supposed to be on Hampshire Under 20 duty next Sunday.
"It's yet another week where we've got more injuries and as a club we couldn't put out two teams this week so it's worrying when you get more injuries. Next week we've just got to get back on the bike against Chiswick," said Bridgman.