The last watery rays of an Indian Summer welcomed Dover Sharks to Knole Paddock last Saturday for their London 1 clash with hosts Sevenoaks. The game was given an extra piquancy as it marked the return to the Paddock for former Oaks head coach Danny Vaughan for the first time since his summer move to the South Kent club.
Oaks, playing with the wind in the first stanza, quickly found themselves behind to an early Sharks penalty as some defensive indiscipline allowed the visiting kicker to put the visitors ahead for the only time on the day. The Oaks riposte was swift and dynamic. After the educated size 11 of second five eighth Phoenix had levelled matters from the tee, tries from winger Short and full back Owen, after an outrageous offload from prop Power, put the hosts in control of proceedings and had the home faithful murmuring in contented fashion.
Ernest Hemingway once noted that ‘The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them’, this mantra is one held dear by Coach Bowman and his team in respect of young players graduating into the senior ranks. After twenty five minutes another product of the Oaks Academy rolled off the production line in the shape of prop Rolfe making his league debut. Rolfe put in a solid shift in the tight and was generally busy in the loose, facts that bode well for the long season ahead.
Just before the half, Shirtcliff scuttled over for a well taken try that was a result of good team pressure, ball retention and no little sleight of hand. As the referee, who had an excellent game, blew the whistle to bring the first half proceedings to a halt the score was 22-3 to the hosts.
Oaks, now playing against the elements, continued to play at a tempo that presented a challenge to the visitors and recorded five second half tries. Efforts from Rolfe, Short and Skinner were bookended by a brace from scrum half Goodhew who had a busy afternoon providing excellent service to his back line whilst sniping well and making some hard yards from around the base of the breakdown. With Phoenix slotting five from seven on the day and Shirtcliff notching two from three the hosts managed to run out 55-15 winners against a committed Dover team who registered two excellent tries of their own, the second of which was a peach as their 10 sprinted over in the corner after collecting a sublime midfield offload.
After the match Director of Rugby Roger Mckerlie commented ‘Firstly, I am obviously delighted with the result and performance today and that we have registered twelve points from our opening four fixtures as we attempt to establish ourselves at the higher level. Secondly it was great to welcome Danny back to the club. He has played a huge role in our recent past and is held in great affection by everybody at the club. Finally and probably most pleasingly it was fantastic to see Rolfey come on today and do an excellent job alongside guys like Skinner and Simmons who at the tender age of eighteen have really established themselves at this level. Our next fixture is a hugely testing trip to Tottonians but we travel there in good heart and look forward to putting in another solid performance’
4 Naismith T
5 Coleman (Capt)