Blue and gold rampant in second half after tight first 40
Beckenham tiger rolled their way into this historic weekend. Having secured promotion to London One South in Maidstone last week, this was a homecoming. A homecoming with bells on. The club had not tasted promotion in twenty-three years, so many generations of Balmoral ballers (including the legends of ’96) were here to celebrate the success of our current 1st XV.
The potential party poopers came in the form of Gravesend. With strong runners through the spine of the team they would certainly be a testing final furlong. They are coached by Dan Buckland – who was sporting a fine beard. He was the man at the helm when the Beckenham ship crashed into London Two South East five seasons ago. Perhaps, the facial hair was a ploy to maintain a disguise and go under the radar on Saturday.
In the week building up to the game, the emphasis of those currently in charge was for the squad to not be complacent. As their last game before off season, the players themselves did not want to feel like they had missed an opportunity to close things off properly. They wanted to sign off in style.
In the opening exchanges of the game, the weight of the occasion got to the team. There was a failure to execute basic skills. This was highlighted by two try scoring opportunities being squandered on either side of pitch. The deadlock though was broken, when Keita Orelaja pressurised a defender into a mistake and collected the loose ball five yards out after an opportunist chip from Louis Richards.
This helped to settle nerves and Beckenham began to find some fluency. Two players in particular triggered the shift in tempo. Josh Smith (the archbishop) and Alex Jones (the man of the match) were making serious yards with their carries. The latter was rewarded for his efforts with a try after a bouncing break through the gainline.
Credit is due to Gravesend as they continued to fight and, after a period of Beckenham ill-discipline and consequential penalties, they kicked to the corner, secured the lineout and bundled over for five points on the short side.
It was 14-5 at the first half with the break giving the players a chance to regroup. The interval had the desired effect as Beckenham began to show their dominance on the pitch and importantly on the scoreboard. Our very own sixth form casanova – Reegan Tarbie – crossed over the line after a well worked backs move.
Tempo was being created by the forwards securing the ball superbly from restarts, working at pace around the corner and ensuring quick ball at the breakdown. The deadlock was broken again by Jamie McDowall. During his second spell on the pitch after providing injury cover at nine, he slotted in on the wing and collected a delightful nudge from Louis Richards. Jamie finished it off with one of his trade mark jinking runs.
The ajar flood gates were now open and coming off their hinges. George Hixson, with a touch of white line fever, grabbed five points when a pass to a free Michael Furness would have been the easier option. Then the stallion – Ebenezer Ikediashi – galloped through with a handful of Gravesend defenders putting their name forward for the runway vacancy at Gatwick. Jamie McDowall bagged a second after a well worked team move from a lineout.
George Hixson then joined the brace brigade after a crafty ruck turnover from Hans and a lush series of passes on the short side. With a silky run in the dying moments, KK signed off proceedings with another five points. Like a brightly coloured, tailored jacket, he could quite easily fit into a team at a very high level of the game.
Champagne and flare popping celebrations ensued after the final whistle. At one point there was fears Paul Charlesworth’s ceremonial speech would be extended penning approval from Brussels. Thankfully though this rumour was unfounded. Revelry continued long into the night. And then into Sunday. And Monday. Whilst Sam Forrest lost his head and received a yellow card on the pitch, there was a danger of the one the squad physically losing their head on the open bus tour of Beckenham on Sunday. For anyone arranging a similar journey, please note the Birkbeck bridge is deceptively low.
Thank you to all those behind the scenes that made the day so special and for those who donated generously during the charity raffle. It will be our 125th anniversary next season and we are back in London One South. The future is bright. The future is blue and gold.