As Gravesend travelled up to Fortress Balmoral, a wet and cold morning turned in to a sunny and warm Saturday for Beckenham. With the side feeling fresh off a hard-fought win against Medway the previous week, morale was high during the warmup. Back in the changing room, skipper Hans Laud Anderson gave a rousing speech Braveheart’s Mel Gibson would be proud of. Fuelled by the front 5s contribution on the sweets and Lucozade rota, Beckenham took the field.
Receiving the Gravesend kick off, Beckenham built some early pressure. Finding themselves in the opposition 22 within the first few minutes, Tane Feldhaus-Davies was unlucky not to find Dan Hamilton with an ambitious pass out to the wing. Despite protestation, the referee duly concluded that it had gone further forward than Gravesend’s cumulative metres made. Not to worry though, because it wasn’t long before centre Geordie Boyce bundled his way over the line to open the scoring. 5-0.
Within a handful of phases after restarting the match with a 22 dropout, following a missed Gravesendian penalty kick, the tee was back on the pitch and this time the 10 didn’t miss. 5-3. A few errors saw Beckenham pinned in their own half for a period. Despite a regimented and physical defensive effort from Beckenham, a breakdown penalty saw the scoreboard tick over. 5-6 to the visitors.
A quick tempo, and some slick hands from Gary Dipple found Beckenham knocking on the door of the opposition 22. Unfortunately, a Beckenham lineout went awry, and the ball was back in Gravesendian hands in the form of a scrum. Despite some monstrous defensive work by Beckenham’s midfield, and some strong running lines by Andrew Knowles and Laud Anderson, the match remained in deadlock in the centre field.
Again, the Gravesend flyhalf put his boot to good use, as the opposition kicked their way up the pitch with some difficult to handle spirals and crossfield kicks. Gravesend found themselves leaving the 22 with 3 points once more. Despite having the lion’s share of possession, and building some fluid and aggressive phases, Beckenham found themselves down 5 points to 9. Ill-discipline was the culprit, as their kicker slotted 3 out of the 4 penalty kicks. The Gravesend flyhalf’s boot, both from the tee and in open play, was proving to be quite effective. While ill-discipline was a concern, the Beckenham defensive line had been impenetrable. With thanks to defensive coach Matt Hankin, the Beckenham line remained resolute; from numbers 1-15, the Beckenham physicality was unmatched.
With ball back in hand following Gravesend returning Beckenham’s kick off, the boys set about playing some fast and free flowing rugby. Once again, the tempo, strength of carry, and slickness of hands proved too much for the Gravesend defence. Following prolonged and aggressive phase play, Rimarni Richards fought his way over the line to secure Beckenham’s second. Boyce converted. 14-9 to the boys in blue and gold. Beckenham went back into the shed with the lead at halftime, ready for some more Haribos, Lucozade, K-Tape, deep heat, and to be inspired by Laud Anderson’s wise words.
In the second half, the Broncos came out galloping. In the same manner they finished the first half, the excellent rucking from the forward back gave Louis Boyden quick and clean ball to set up Feldhaus-Davies to tear through the Gravesend line from short distance and dot the ball down for his first, and Beckenham’s third. Boyce delivered once more. 21-9.
Next up came the compilation of Andrew ‘Pig’ Knowles athletic displays. Receiving Gravesend’s kick-off, Knowles leapt through the air. Unfortunately, he didn’t bring the ball back down with him. Nevertheless, Beckenham soon had the ball back, and an outrageous offload from Feldhaus-Davies saw Fran Pennacchia carve through the Gravesend defence. History repeated itself with Feldhaus-Davies dotting down once more and Boyce adding the extras, but would history repeat itself at kick off? Up goes the ball, up goes Knowles, down comes Knowles, but where is the ball? They say pigs don’t fly for a reason.
After withstanding a Gravesend onslaught, Beckenham found themselves once more building together fluid phase play, and quick slick handling. Dummy lines were ran, exits were found, and Lamar Sinclair dived into the corner with flare reminiscent only of Chris Ashton. He might be a try scoring Premiership centurion, but can he do it on a gritty Saturday at Balmoral Avenue? Sinclair can. 33-9. The last 10 minutes saw Gravesend find a bit of energy, but their efforts saw no reward. Once more the Beckenham line stayed well structures, physical and disciplined. Tackle after tackle went in, and eventually the ball fell forward, and the referee’s whistle went. Full time.
It was an excellent performance by the Broncos, who had to fight hard to stay on top throughout the match. Congratulations to Tane Feldhaus-Davies on a man of the match performance, and also to Richard Keefe who had an exceptional match at lock.
Match report by scrum half Louis Boyden