Beckenham seal first league title in 23 years!
By Michael Timms
Beckenham are London SE2 champions after 9 try win
Knowing a 5-point win would secure the title. Beckenham went in to Saturday's game against Maidstone, relishing the opportunity to write themselves into the Blue and gold history books.
The sense of anticipation with rife around mote park, with huge travelling support. The initial exchanges were understandably nervy, with Maidstone looking to make it a difficult day for Beckenham. However up step captain Liam Markey, who hit a great line of the break down. Breaking the Maidstone defence, he was able to release the supporting Hans Laud-Anderson, who showed a great turn of pace to scramble his way over in the corner after just 5 minutes. Louis Richard's just wide the conversion. Just the start Beckenham desired!
With the nerves now settled Beckenham now looked to be getting into their stride. On 13 minutes an infringement at the breakdown from Maidstone, gave Richard's the opportunity to extend Beckenham’s lead. However, the fly half dragged his kick wide from 40 meters out.
Minutes later however, Beckenham were able to grab their second score. With Maidstone kicking to touch, the kick was poor executed, and Beckenham punished the mistake! James Curr collecting the kick, breaking through the tackle to pop the ball to his centre partner George Hixson. Hixson streaked away from the trailing Maidstone defence, creating a 2 on 1, returning the pass to James Curr who ran in unopposed! Louis Richard's converting well. 12-0.
In a matter of minutes however, the Beckenham 10 would go from Hero to Villain. With Maidstone throwing everything at the Beckenham defence, Louis Richard's saw yellow for a cynical offence on his own line. With Beckenham a man down, they showed title winning resolve to weather the Maidstone storm, Hans Laud-Anderson eventually getting a turnover at the breakdown on the Beckenham 5 meter line.
Back in possession Beckenham looked to utilise short phases, given the man disadvantage. Props Will Wynter and Graham Murray leading from the front with powerful Carries. This tactic was reaping dividends, with the blue and gold forwards making large inroads into the Maidstone defence. With the home side on the back foot, scrum half Craig Thomson spotted the gap and sniped from the base of the breakdown to score the first of three on the day. Reegan Tarbie adding the extras with Richard's still in the bin.
With a few minutes left of the half, Beckenham secured the crucial bonus point. Keita Orleja receiving the ball out the back from the set play, slicing through the Maidstone defence to go over in the corner. Louis Richard's again with another outstanding conversion from out wide.
HT Maidstone 0 - 26 Beckenham
The second half started timidly. With the first 10 minutes uneventful. However, on 51 minutes, the half was sparked into life by Craig Thomson. The scrum half finished off an outstanding counter attack by wrong footing the full back to dive over in the corner. Richard's unluckily hitting the post with the conversion.
Moment later James Curr also grabbed his second score of the match. Working the blindside Curr latched onto Louis Richard's inside pass, still with plenty of covering defence in his way. Not deterred, the Beckenham 12 burst through the initial tackler, dragging a further 2 with him to slam the ball down over the line. Louis Richard's adding the 2. 38-0 with 25 minutes left on the clock.
On 64 minutes Craig Thomson grabbed his hat-trick. The lineout had been marshalled well all game by Andrew Knowles and James Blackmore and it was put to good use for the next score, Knowles winning clean ball, popping of the top to Thomson. The ball fizzed through the hands of the back to Jamie McDowall. The substitute then showing quick feet to step the bulky centre. With a 2 on 1, McDowall popped the ball inside to the ever present Thomson who had a clear run in under the posts from 30 meters out. Richard's adding the 2.
With Beckenham seemingly dominating the second half, the visitors had to show resilience in defence at times to keep Maidstone out. Alex Jones and Henry Kenny leading from the front with some massive defensive hits. Mike Furness also putting his body on the line with a last ditch covering tackle to take the Maidstone winger in to touch just inches short of the Beckenham line.
Beckenhams next score came in the 69th minute (cheeky). Keita Orelaja collected a scuffed Maidstone clearance kick with plenty of work to do. Quick stepping around the scattered on-rushing defence, Orelaja went back against the grain, skinning the winger and passing inside to substitute McDowall for a clear run to the line. Richard's with the conversion. 52-0
Not quite finished, Beckenham, having scored some scintillating tries, still had one more quality score in the locker. With a scrum inside their own half the forwards, who had dominated at the set piece all day, provided clean ball for the back line. The ball went out to Louis Richards, who attempted an audacious chip in behind the on rushing Maidstone defensive press. A perfectly weighted kick ensued and bounced straight into the arms of Keita Orelaja who stepped to then show a clean pair of heels to run in from the half way line. An outstanding score to finish of an outstanding away performance!
FT Maidstone 0 – 59 Beckenham
As the Full time whistle blew, the magnitude of the achievement hit the players and support team. Scenes of utter elation and relief after what has been a long a hard season. Many thanks to Maidstone who showed gracious hospitality post game, especially with the mascots providing a guard of honour for the players as they left the field. Wishing you all the best for next season.
There were several notable performances from 1-15. Special mentions to Will Wynter and Liam Markey, who stepped up with huge carries through out the game. However Craig Thomson could not be overlooked for the award. 3 tries and an outstanding overall performance, dictating and managing the game brilliantly!
Understandably the celebrations went on long into the night, with some very sore heads and interesting stories the following morning! Although the league is secured the team will be working hard this week, looking to finish the season with a bang as we welcome Gravesend to Balmoral Avenue. The return fixture was the first game of the season, with Beckenham managing to come out on top against a very physical Gravesend side.
With it being old boys day and the 125 charity auction taking place after the game, it promises to be a massive club day.
Kick off is 3pm - A big crowd is expected. Get down and support your new champions!!