The ancient county of Dorsetshire is famous for the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the world’s first trade unionists, as well as having memorably daft place names such as Scratchy Bottom and Lytchett Matravers, among many others. All this geographical and historical nonsense has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with North Dorset given that all of these places are in South Dorset.
North Dorset RFC is a rugby club based in North Dorset, in the town of Gillingham, North Dorset which should never be confused with the town of Gillingham, which is in Kent.
With Easter holidays in full swing, the population density of south-west London was doing its best to mimic that of Gillingham, Dorset (or Kent) on a typical Sunday afternoon. With player numbers down at the expense, no doubt, of many a Tuscan villa, reinforcements were called for and thankfully the lads of Hammersmith and Fulham RFC (sponsored by BMW Park Lane) were on hand to join forces with their near neighbours at London Welsh.
After an injury plagued few months, the London Welsh supporters were delighted to see Gareth Vaughan Jones, with hernia, left knee and whistle all restored to their rightful place, striding confidently onto the hallowed Old Deer Park turf to take charge of this much anticipated end-of-season encounter.
The Dragons got play under way and the early play was all in the North Dorset 22. A penalty was earned and the Welsh looked to be in but the ball was held up at the cost of an injury. North Dorset escaped the Welsh stranglehold with a superb exit by the visitors’ inside centre who danced and weaved his way towards the half way line.
With ten minutes gone the game remained scoreless. Out of the blue, the Welsh broke into the opposition 22 with Baxter and Kyan exchanging passes on the left wing and just when an opening seemed possible a knock on closed the door. A game of kicking tennis kept North Dorset on the back foot but from an exit kick several offside players couldn’t resist chasing the ball. Welsh took a quick tap penalty and over they went for the lead their early work deserved.
The lads from Dorset responded well to the scoreline set back and pushed the Welsh deep into their own 22. The Welsh were penalised and the resulting kick to touch gave the visitors a great opportunity. The maul was perfectly set and Welsh had no answer. With both early tries going unconverted there was nothing to separate the teams as we reached the half way point in the first half.
It was now Welsh who responded to conceding as a great backs’ move orchestrated by Evan and Hugh set Baxter and Kyan away again on the left. Kyan’s hand off put the Dragons within metres of the line, they recycled quickly and Glyn drove hard and over to put Welsh back in the ascendancy at 10-5.
Repeating the pattern of the game, North Dorset had a period in charge and suddenly the Welsh were creaking when a couple of missed tackles enabled the visitors to get their noses in front with the first converted try of the match as half time beckoned.
The crowd were enjoying this close encounter which was brilliantly poised as North Dorset got the second half underway. Welsh had all the play and territory and were pushing hard to regain the lead. They were being made to work for it by some sterling south coast defensive work. But Welsh retook the lead with a try in the distant corner which went unconverted at 15-12.
The game of scoreboard ping-pong looked set to continue when North Dorset broke through the Welsh line and would have been in, were it not for a timely tap tackle by Hugh. But it was Welsh that were next to score with Baxter almost there. The ball finally emerged from the resulting ruck for Joel to go in under the posts to give the Welsh at least a little breathing space at 20-12. The conversion was charged down.
With their wonderful travelling support urging them on from the stands, the tourists took the game to Welsh who were going to need to up their game to see this one out. But with only 5 minutes to go some lovely interplay between TK and Glyn on the left wing put Glyn away and under the posts for his second. Evan was not going to miss this one and the 27-12 score line was possibly a little generous to Welsh.
With time running out, Welsh began to turn the screw and went through phase after phase and when John drove hard, if a little isolated, the match official spotted the high tackle that tiredness no doubt contributed to. Welsh went quickly and were on the 5m line and then over to put the game beyond North Dorset at 32-12. Luke’s final contribution in an otherwise typically strong performance was to miss the conversion as predicted by his father.
Although the game was gone, the tourists were intent on finishing with a flurry and capitalised on a loose Welsh pass to drive deep into Welsh territory earning themselves a penalty on the 5m line. The defence looked well set but a beautifully constructed training ground move meant the tourists ended the on-field action in style with a converted try to take the score to 32-19.
The post-match festivities involved the usual exchange of gifts and memorabilia, although with the club shop having been emptied that very morning and this being south-west London the awards for the visiting star players were a wad of cash which was unashamedly doshed out by the Welsh coaches and was richly deserved by our new friends from Hardy’s Dorset.
Written by Neil Wharton