Westcliff hosted Dorking for the final game of a long, exhausting but largely successful and satisfying season as they had begun it. A head to head contest against their Surrey visitors fought out in hot sunny conditions and on this occasion on a rock hard playing surface. Westcliff were able to recall Rob and Jim Smith who slid straight back into the starting XV as did Olly Jones. Vandermolen came back into the match day squad with converted hooker Hopkins taking the starting spot. Spivey and Merrick remained unavailable and were joined by the injured Sam Brown.
Direct from the kick off Dorking spilled the ball and the hosts quickly seized upon it several phases later and still within the games opening minute Jim Smith powered over from short range to open the scoring. The kick slipped past but Westcliff led 5-0 a lead they doubled 10 minutes later when after breaking from deep the ball was recycled and Jack Jones stabbed a well-judged chip towards the line which was collected by Rob Smith and offloaded to Reynolds in support who touched down.
Dorking had been caught cold by Westcliffs fast start but were not slow to respond and scored a converted try through the lively Cameron Pimlow who collected a lineout overthrow and chipped over the cover and chased to touch down just inside the dead ball area. The game ebbed and flowed for the next quarter of an hour with both sides demonstrating ambition and threat. Westcliff though were edging it and after a period of sustained pressure on the visitors line they broke narrow side from a penalty advantage scrum and fed winger Olly Jones to score in the corner, younger brother Jack maintained his 0% kicking average and although Dorking attempted to respond late in the half they led 15-7 at the break.
The game was keenly contested in all areas but Westcliff were again in the ascendancy in the opening moments of the second half and were rewarded with a try from skipper Branch 5 minutes in when he sniped blind after concerted red zone pressure. Westcliff were playing well and continued to play adventurous rugby but when an attack broke down and the ball ricocheted off players in broken field it was scooped to Pimlow who showed a clean pair of heels to score his second try of the afternoon which was again converted and the score closed to 20-14. With the game entering the final quarter the teams remained within a score of each other despite the hosts outscoring the visitors by 4 trys to 2.With 8 points from the boot not taken Jones took it upon himself to make the next effort a little easier for himself which he duly did by scoring under the posts a score he then converted. Ten minutes later he added a further 3 points stretching the lead to 30-14 before two minutes after that big brother Olly gassed the cover defence not once but twice to stretch the lead to a match winning 35-14. Westcliff will berate but ultimately forgive themselves for the lapses in concentration that saw the visitors score two well taken trys in keeping with the game in the final 5 minutes. The curtain came down on the game and the season with a 35-24 victory for the hosts and 6th place in a high quality and unforgiving London & SE Premier League.
It was a decent game with lots of positive rugby and moments of high quality punctuated with the flaws and errors that ambition and adventure often also produce. Both sides battled hard in the sun with no quarter being asked or given and despite the odd fractious moment it was played in good spirit. We are delighted to finish with a win as we have had a little dip lately as the demands of the season have tested our reserves and resources. The league campaign is over and having improved on last seasons highest finish we can reflect on it with a level of satisfaction and take a well-earned rest before turning our minds once more to the future and what it brings. That is sure to be an equally if not more challenging league when the new season comes round.
Mckeith, Reynolds, Stol, R Smith, O Jones, J Jones, Branch, Brown, Macintyre, Binneman, Scogings, Edwards, Hopkins, Marsh, J Smith REP Vandermolen, Hatton, Ansell