Barnes 29 Dorking 31
Fitness and nerve prevail as Dorking take the honours to move clear at the top of the table
By Paul Mosley
The prospect of playing at Barnes is always a little tinged with ennui. And Saturday was no different. Not from a rugby perspective, of course. Dorking top of the league with Barnes after three wins apiece was always going to be a delicious indicator of how it might pan out over the season. This was about early bragging rights.
But the Barnes effect still persists. The usual slow routes out of town into Southwest London were tediously gummed up, meaning many of us arrived too late for a pint in their scout hut. Meanwhile down the road there was mercifully no entrance fee this year for access to the municipal pitch, but neither was there a programme, photocopied teamsheet or even a crayon drawing to indicate who was on the park for this important National League 2 encounter. Pah! And the touchline banter, never much more than moderate, was as slack as usual. Pah! Pah! (Editor’s note – It’s all gone online with an e-programme on the Barnes Website and online payment portal…..)
But the rugby? That’s different. After winning both enthralling games last season by a combined plus points difference of just three, it’s fair to say the Dorking posse were optimistic but just a little anxious about what awaited us.
Yet from the off all fears were quickly banished. Captain Fred made one of his trademark searing breaks up through the middle and led the way as the pack punched through first tackles on our way to the Barnes’ line where Scholesy extended his full length to tap down the first try after just 2 minutes, the conversion a rare miss for Henry.
Dorking looked sharp as we played a wide and expansive game, nearly freeing Will Sanders on the wing. The first scrum honours then went to Dorking as Barnes conceded a penalty and from good field position the ball sped through Jasper and Tom to Toby on the other wing who rounded the cover defence with ease for try number 2, but again no conversion.
By now Dorking were in top gear – Jasper, Big Steve and Finn all catching the eye – and breaking tackles at will… and after 10 minutes we were three tries up when hooker Johnny capped his return to the starting XV with a try as the pack scattered the Barnes Defence. Henry readjusted the scope on his Howitzer boot and the conversion put Dorking 17-0 up.
Barnes, inevitably, regrouped and when Fred limped off temporarily with a dead leg they gained momentum and after 26 minutes made their first sortie into our 22. And stayed there. Dorking defended their line with gusto but after a spate of penalties their pack eventually rumbled over for a try through Ryan Nixon, converted by Harry Mercer and 7-17.
By now our expansive intentions had contracted a little, but as we threw the ball wide in a promising attack Barnes read the play well for Cameron Roberts to intercept from halfway to make it 14-17, Mercer adding the extras. And they got a third soon after in the corner through Captain Josh Davies, again converted by Mercer to lead 19-17 as mistakes crept into our game.
Now it was Dorking’s turn to regroup and a break from Fred in broken play brought in the speed merchants. Toby ran a great line, drew the defence and fed Tom Howe to outsprint the cover for an excellent bonus point try. Henry added the conversion and we headed in for the half time oranges 19-24 ahead… and not a little relieved.
The second half saw Bristow back in front-row action after his layoff along with young Zac, relieving Charlie and Birchy, while Ray Jardine came on for Big Steve. And it became a more attritional game with Barnes camped in the Dorking 22 and an iffy yellow card for Craig, who’d been having a good game pulling the control strings at flyhalf.
Barnes, marshalled by their energetic scrum half skipper Josh Davies, capitalised to score out wide, but the winger Rob Cameron was allowed to scamper towards our posts making the extra points a formality for kicker Harry Mercer and retake the lead, 26-24.
By now the game was every bit as tense as the encounters last season, and when Henry’s long-range penalty drifted wide Barnes had the initiative. And a penalty through Mercer in front of the posts soon extended their lead to a buttock-clenching 29-24.
As the teams tired, the game slowed but Dorking upped their game and with 15 minutes to go struck deep into Barnes territory and battered away at the line. As the cover was sucked in, Henry The Hoof took the ball to the line and stretched over for a well-taken try which he converted for a 29-31 lead.
The Dorking rear-guard action kept Barnes at bay with Scholes and Finn Osbourne to the fore disrupting the Barnes lineout in the dying minutes and stealing crucial ball to take the sting out of the Barnes late attack, while Ray and Fred counter-attacked into their 22 to keep hopes of a relieving try alive.
And then it was over and, like last season, sighs of relief all round. Full credit again to Barnes, a very good side who must hate the sight of us. But we’re top of the table with a three-point cushion after four games. We’ll settle for that.
Next week: Westcombe Park at home
DoR Armand Roux commented:
“It was definitely again one of those games where it could have gone either way. I thought we had an exceptional start to the game but full credit to Barnes for their resilience and always staying in the game to the last minute.
It is always nice to reflect on these games especially when you are on the winning side but we do need to look at how we can put more periods together of sustained pressure. We allowed Barnes to get momentum and they fully capitalised on it.
There has been a shift in player application this season and we are slowly improving in areas we have been targeting so overall so pleased with progress. That is 1 more job done before we take on the next challenge of Westcombe Park at home.
Massive than you to the traveling support alongside the other senior players staying and supporting each other.”
1 Henry Birch, 2 Johnny Ellis, 3 Charlie Connor, 4 Steve Howorth, 5 Jasper King, 6 Will Scholes, 7 Fred Dalton (c), 8 Finn Osborne, 9 George Jackson, 10 Craig Holland, 11 Toby McRae, 12 Henry Anscombe, 13 Tom Howe, 14 Will Sanders, 15 Cam Cowell. Bench: 16 Zak Stephenson, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Ray Jardine, 19 Fraser Mosley, 20 Henry Smith
Man of the match: Finn Osborne
Referee: George Oundsley