Saturday 11th March
Dorking 17-20 Southend
By Scott Richardson
Short sleeves and sunglasses were the order of the day at The Big Field on Saturday as Dorking welcomed Southend.
The game couldn’t have started any better for Dorking as Southend spilled the kick-off and Jasper King, back for his first game in 3 months following an injury lay-off, showed a great turn of pace to put pressure on and earn Dorking a lineout 5 metres out from the Southend line. The Dorking pack showed excellent control and no little power to shunt the ball over the line, allowing James Catton to dutifully dot down and give Dorking a 7-0 lead after 90 seconds.
It was still looking good when, at the first scrum of the game, the Southend loosehead dropped his bind and gave Dorking a penalty on halfway. However, the Southend wing showed incredible athleticism to prevent the ball from going into touch allowing them to clear back to halfway when Dorking gave away a penalty of their own, going from promising field position to facing their own posts. A familiar tale of recent weeks.
Southend missed the shot but maintained field position from the 22 drop-out, eventually manufacturing an opportunity for their fullback to go over and level the score at 7-7 with no more than 10 minutes gone. In the furore, some “friendly fire” saw Jonny Ellis sustain a nasty gash to the forehead requiring a visit to A&E whilst Stu Watkins could get away with some strapping and carry on. This left Dorking down to a squad of 17 for the rest of the game, not to mention down to 13 on the field when Southend scored, falling victim to the woefully inadequate numbers on the bench permitted at this level and the referee’s interpretation of head injury protocol.
All was not lost, however, as the excellent Jasper King showed off his pace once more, making a break down the middle to put Finn Osborne (on for the stricken Jonny Ellis) through and following on to receive the return pass, only to be scythed down agonisingly short of the line. The ball was turned over and cleared as far as Ed Carne at fullback who looked to run it back only to be chopped down himself. Cam Osborne was back to support, however, and when Carne popped the ball up from the floor, it allowed Cam to go on a mazy run and perform a sumptuous dink over the defence. The cruel bounce of a rugby ball struck and brushed Cam’s fingers as he leapt to corral it with nothing but empty terrain ahead of him, only to be knocked on and end the play.
It was the second half when Dorking looked to pull away again. A penalty for a high tackle allowed Matt Noble to give Dorking the lead once more and shortly after, the play of game ensued when a wide ball went to ground. As so often happens, the Southend defence in this case froze, allowing Mike Terelak to pick it up and step back against the grain, slicing through the line as though they were running in treacle. Another step to avoid the sweeper, he then drew the onrushing fullback and launched a pinpoint pass off his right to Cam who had his own work cut out to beat the winger, tip-toeing down the line, and dotting down, giving Dorking a 17-7 lead and looking comfortable with 20 minutes to go.
Southend were able to drag themselves back into it when Dorking were penalised for not releasing the tackler but when an edgy and ill-tempered game boiled over and the Southend blindside flanker saw yellow for a punch, Dorking still seemed to be in control.
Shortly afterwards, in what adjudged by many to be a case of evening the score, the referee pulled his yellow out once more and this time, flashed it in Tom Hunt’s direction for an infringement at the ruck. The ruck being on the half-way line and no imminent threat of a score from Southend contributed to the bewilderment of the Dorking faithful as to how this constituted 10 minutes in the bin but on such decisions, are games won and lost.
From the ensuing field position, Southend managed to get a scrum 5 metres out from the Dorking line and, with Andy Gardner defending out wide to make up for the vacant wing position, the Southend scrum half was able to show and go from the back of the scrum and go in to make it 17-15 with the conversion to come.
When the subsequent conversion was missed, it seemed again as though Dorking would pull through and hold out for the win, however, the team was bruised and battered thanks to the lack of replacements available to the extent that Robbie Fee had to battle through the final stanza of proceedings on one leg having been forced off at the end of the first half with a knee injury. Ben Edwards also had to overcome back problems and Jasper King trying to last the full 80 after his aforementioned lay-off proved too much. Southend were able to get one more try in the corner with seconds left on the clock to make it 17-20 and another disappointing defeat for Dorking against an eminently beatable team.
Director of Rugby, Armand Roux, was understandably frustrated:
“Obviously, we are very disappointed with the result as we were in the lead until the last 5 minutes. Southend were clearly hungry for the win as they are struggling in the relegation zone.
“We suffered our fair share of injuries from the start of the game, and there were 2 head injuries that occurred in one tackle 10 minutes in from which the referee allowed play to continue. From the subsequent penalty, they scored 7 points. One player left the pitch permanently and the other required treatment and I would expect head injury protocol to be followed by the official. It was unfortunately not to be.
“Another grey area on the day was the scrum area. We dominated the first quarter and did not get any reward from it. However, as soon as the tide turned, we were on the receiving end of few penalties.
“That being said, a couple of tactical errors cost us in the end alongside weak defence in last 5 minutes.
“We showed a lot of fighting spirit and this Dorking team has definitely got the heart and soul of a team that can grow, we just need to do a little soul searching and start to produce some more match-winning rugby by trusting our system and continuing to work hard.
“It’s never nice to lose, but the players know what they need to address to improve both individually and collectively.
“Onwards and upwards for us with a week off and then taking on the league leaders, TJ’s, in 2 weeks’ time. What a great test of character that one will be and one that is needed by us.”
The next game, as mentioned, is away at Tonbridge Juddians on 25th March so we look forward to seeing you there.
Team: Richard Nunn, James Catton, Ben Edwards, Robbie Fee, Jasper King, Jonny Ellis, Oli Edwards, Harry Watts, Andy Gardner, Matt Noble (c), Cam Osborne, Stuart Watkins, Mike Terelak, Tom Hunt, Ed Carne, Ben Knight, Finn Osborne, Steve Howorth