Hertford 19 – 6 Dorking
By Scott Richardson
Oh, for a free-flowing game of rugby.
Saturday’s trip away to Hertford had all the makings of a good run out for Dorking. A refreshed team arrived at the ground thanks to a week off and it was reflected in a sharp and urgent looking warm up. However, the day was always going to present a challenge given Hertford’s position in the league and a ground that boasted more slopes than Val d’Isere. Dorking had put one over them in the first game at The Big Field, though, so the travelling Dorking faithful allowed themselves a sliver of hope.
That hope seemed well-founded in the opening minutes as Dorking managed to secure great field position thanks to an early penalty and could boast, for the first time in a long time, a genuinely dominant pack. Further encouragement soon followed as Robbie Fee made a half break, popping the ball inside to Jonny Ellis who, in turn, flung the ball inside as he was accosted towards the touchline, only for it to cannon off Matt Noble’s shoulder with the line beckoning.
Unfortunately, the tide soon turned as, following a break from Hertford, Dorking’s defence scrambled well, only to leave no one covering the back of the ruck. The Hertford 9, lightning of speed and thought, scampered through the inviting gap and was eventually scythed down short of the Dorking line. The ball was recycled and the 10 slung a long, loopy pass wide for the wing to dot down.
The game was an incredibly stop-start affair, with the referee seemingly trying to make up for some pernickety calls by playing ludicrously long advantages for others, just to blow the whistle again, leaving players and supporters alike bemused and frustrated. He also showcased some Tommy Cooper levels of misdirection when, following a scrum, there was a skirmish involving the two openside flankers getting to know one another. The referee pointed at the altercation, shouted at them and threatened to ping them which drew everyone’s attention to the fracas, expecting the familiar whistle to blow again, a quick talk and move on. Instead, the ball went loose and the Hertford 9 picked up and dotted down for Hertford’s second try – just like that.
Dorking’s scrum continued to dominate even further when the Hertford 8 was binned for a continuation of the previous scuffle but to no avail. Hertford’s pack looked to be on ice skates yet no penalty ever came and whilst Harry Watts was imperious off the base of the scrum, Dorking were unable to convert ball and territory into points. Tom Hunt made a nice break to end the half but his attempted offload was batted down to leave the score 12-0 at half-time.
Dorking started the second half with some more enterprising play as Andy Gardner put up another lovely box kick which turned into a Dorking penalty soon after. The shot at goal was missed but Matt Noble soon made up for it with a sumptuous drop goal after James Catton went quick from a penalty, shifting it wide to Cam Osborne – on for James Arbury who had injured his thumb following some admirable kick chasing and concussive tackling – only for Hertford to try and slow the ball down. Rather than take the penalty, the ball eventually came out to Noble who drifted to his right before putting his foot through the ball on the run to get Dorking’s first three points on the board.
Hertford were pinged again shortly after for not retreating 10 metres from another penalty and Noble made it six and Dorking were back in it. Sadly, it was not to be as following some more questionable whistle-play from the referee, Hertford were able to camp in the Dorking 22 for the final quarter of the game and whilst Dorking’s defence was, once again resolute, Hertford finally went over to make it 19-6 and effectively put the game to bed.
A frustrating day for all involved as this was an eminently beatable team but kudos must go to the opposition for some tough defence and clinical finishing. Dorking will rue missed opportunities and an inability to convert territory into points at certain times in the game. The forwards should take immense pride from the dominance they held at scrum time and look forward to being back at The Big Field for Southend next week on the up.
Director of Rugby, Armand Roux had this to say:
“We had a good weeks’ build-up to Hertford and we are pretty disappointed with result. We started off really well and played as planned. However, two crucial mistakes at a lineout and a scrum and we found ourselves 12 points down.
“In the second half, playing up the slope, I thought we showed some real character and played some fantastic rugby. We just could not get over the whitewash.
“The pack dominated at set-piece time and we looked really fresh compared to the opposition and we made some great yards out wide.
“Hertford defended really well and they were really tactical in “taking a knee” to slow the game down, which frustrated us.
“Too many half-chances squandered with offloads not going to hand or getting tackled into touch meaning that we could not capitalise on our territorial advantage. We deserved some points to take away from that game, but it was not to be.
“Moving on, a tough game against Southend at The Big Field coming up. They have been showing fighting spirit to stay out of the relegation zone.”
As mentioned, the next game sees Dorking taking on relegation strugglers Southend at The Big Field, look forward to seeing you down there on Saturday 11th March.
Team: Richard Nunn, James Catton, Ben Edwards, Robbie Fee, Finn Osborne, Jonny Ellis, Oli Edwards, Harry Watts, Andy Gardner, Matt Noble (c), James Arbury, Stuart Watkins, Mike Terelak, Tom Hunt, Ed Carne, Fred Evan, Sam Johnson, Cam Osborne