The Bandits opened their 2021-22 league campaign with what can simply be described as a tough day at the office. Early optimism at a sound, if unrewarded, first half performance gave way to an unpleasant lesson, as injuries depleted the Club team in the second half and the home side pulled away to a 52-0 result.
The Bandits had a good proportion of the early running, won several turnovers at the scrum and seemed to settle in to the game well, but Beckenham improvised effectively, scoring an early try with a fly-hack and chase. Breaking the line seemed not to be a challenge for the Club, with Luke Baldwin in his first game at outside-half repeatedly finding space and carving through the Beckenham defence, only for offloads never to stick in the hands. The Bandits had 10 minutes of numerical superiority as Sean Collett was hit late, high, and with no arms midway through the half by the Beckenham loose-head. Sadly no points came, although the Club did have a try awarded with 35 minutes on the clock, only to decline the points, with all parties besides the referee aware of an obvious knock-on. Having displayed commendable honesty, the Bandits failed to deal with another fly-hacked kick and lost the chase for the ball. Beckenham’s second try was converted and the first half ended with the score 14-0. The Club were far from out of the game at this stage, although bizarre bad news came in the form of a large, limping man; Oli Brewer, the Bandits replacement tight-head had conspired to injure himself while running the touchline. A lengthy spell on the side-lines seems likely.
The second half was tough to watch. Beckenham’s kick-off was dropped forward a few yards from the Club tryline, a Beckenham penalty followed the scrum, and a try came immediately from the field position. A further score came moments later the Beckenham right-wing broke smartly and without much hindrance from the Bandits defence. The visitors hardly touched the ball in the ensuing 20 minutes, and yet another hack-on put Beckenham over the Club tryline again, although by this time the Bandits had at least remembered how to tackle. Hargreaves, Tamaq and Collett punched well above their weights to stop heavy Beckenham runners, but injuries came thick and fast; Conor Mitchell and Luke Baldwin had been star performers in the game thus far, but retired with a dead leg and a pulled hamstring respectively. With no more front-row replacements, Rory Eves gamely stepped in to play loose-head, but with no hooker the scrum started to lose shape. Roper-Blackman was pushed back to 10, leaving Ed Bagshaw to step in to scrum-half in only his fourth game of rugby; through no lack of effort, the Bandits were entirely disjointed, struggled to maintain any level of possession and the tries rained down for Beckenham.
The Bandits were not entirely without opportunities; Johnny Moore seemed to have slipped through in pursuit of a kick-ahead, only for the ball to pop loose. Successive charge-downs of Beckenham clearances seemed to give the Club a chance of a consolation try with a couple of minutes left, only for the referee to blow the full-time whistle early. The visitors were left ruing a few missed chances, several missed tackles, a number of untimely injuries and a lack of fluidity and precision. One positive to take from the game, is that in the last few years, the Bandits have not lost two games on the bounce.
15: Johnny Moore 14: Mitch Hargreaves 13: Sean Collett 12: Sim Obonyo 11: Ed Bagshaw 10: Luke Baldwin 9: Kai Roper-Blackman 1: Mykea Perry 2: Conor Mitchell (captain) 3: Ryan McSweeney 4: Rory Eves 5: Matt Twose 6: Matt Jones 7: Reyhan Tamaq 8: Namir Khalil
Replacements: Oli Brewer, Henry Gillett, Luke Brodie-Brown