Bandits v Dartfordian 4s

Match Report: 23 Mar 2024 Bandits v Dartfordians 4s


There was a lot of anticipation building up to this game as everyone knew that if we won the game, we won the league. The signs were all very positive with great availability, a fantastic training session on the Wednesday, the fact that the game was on Pitch One & the forecast was for a dry day so the Bandits backs should be able to play in the way they like to play.  There was also a large crowd in the stands with friends and family, players from the Blackheath Women’s team, and Club supporters / volunteers all along to watch. But as the famous adage says ‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy”.


The game started well enough, with a series of carries by the forwards and then the ball found Stuart Ricketts who, handing off three players went over in the corner. 5-0.


Unfortunately the Bandits suffered their customary ‘funny spell’, which went on for most of the first half rather than the usual 10 minutes.  We were being outdone at the breakdown and were struggling to stop their runners before or on the gain line, putting us on the back foot repeatedly.  This, combined with some excellent play from Darts, saw the Club 3s on the back foot and conceding possession, territory and points.  Within a minute of the Club try Darts had scored under the posts and powerful running by their big forwards combined with good lines from their backs, orchestrated by a fly half we have faced many times before saw the Bandits trailing 5-19 after 25 minutes.


Club very much had a mountain in front of them to climb. Calm but harsh words from skipper Kai and pack leader Cam, under the sticks, brought order to the situation and we started to see the Bandits play the way that had brought them this far in the league. Aggressive defence & line speed started to blunt the Darts attacks and the pattern we like to play in attack finally coming into play, with a back division that can threaten from anywhere making headway into the Darts territory. Before long we were attacking the Darts line at close range but were held up.  One of the injured players commentating on the group chat summed it up well with “So much better in the last five. Bit more fight in the dog”.  The tempo increasing and skipper Kai, returning after far too long out injured, was really making his presence felt and JP was soon in for the score, with Nathan Brindle adding the extras to bring the score to 12-19.


The second half started well, with the Bandits playing like the Bandits at last and James Bonser, who was having an excellent game on the wing scored in the corner, but the conversion was missed. 17-19. Taking advantage of a one man advantage with a Darts player in the Bin, we were soon back in their 22 with an attacking scrum from which the backs nearly went in but for a dropped pass, fortunately the ref was playing advantage and we had a penalty 10m out, from which the forwards ran their ‘Tonga’ set move which was stopped short but we ran a ‘Missile’ from there for Cam Squire to drive Neil to within a few inches then Cam dotted it down.  Brindle Junior added the conversion to bring it to 24-19.


Darts were far from finished and we knew from years of experience how good a side they are so, whilst we were starting to gain the upper hand in the scrum and at least now had parity at the breakdown, their big forwards were hard to stop and were offloading well, whilst their backs were always threatening.  A series of carries saw them crash over under the posts, giving them what should have been an easy conversion, but Kai saw the kicker move early, successfully and cheekily running out to nudge the ball off the tee. 24-24


We regathered the ball from the restart and several phases later tighthead Oli Brewer ghosted over after an outrageous dummy to score his 3rd try in a remarkable 17 seasons with the Club (naturally he was fined for showboating after the game). The extras were addedand we were ahead 31-24 with 20 minutes to go, but we then suffered a yellow card and Cam was sent for 10 minutes rest.


Fortunately the pack retained good shape without their destructive 8, and the experience of Brewer and of Alan Onyango in particular was evident, and we successfully repelled the lineout and a number of phases on our line, but eventually they scored. The score was now a nail biting 31-31 with just a few minutes left.


Club regained the restart and retained possession, continuing to attack within the Darts half. A penalty was given which was kicked to touch and gave us a line out in the Clubhouse corned around 8m out, from which a free kick was awarded. Cam Squire, back on the pitch tapped and carried.  A ruck was formed 5m out and the ball went to flyhalf Mitch, who offloaded shortly before being melted by the Darts 8 and swift hands put replacement Cormac Mcmahon in on the far side. Brindle added the conversion.


38-31 Fulltime score.


Dartfordians were a quality opposition who took the game to injury time for us to score and to win the league with two games to spare. Whilst this season has been going 7 months, the work began 18 months ago and it was a squad win; the victory belonging to everyone who has pulled on a Club shirt for the Bandits in the past year & a half. A huge thank you to everyone in the Club, from the Executive Committee to Frank the groundsman for being so supportive in our endeavours.