IT has been said that a week in politics is a long time, and it appears the same can now be said in club rugby. It has certainly been a roller coaster ride for Dartmouth RFC.
A week ago, Dartmouth made the eight-hour round trip to play Fareham Heathens in the quarter finals of the Papa Johns Community cup. They narrowly lost the game and the club thought that their chances of winning any silverware this season was lost.
However, after the Heathens game, the English Rugby Football Union carried out an enquiry into administration errors made by the Heathens in respect of their team selection.
The result of the enquiry favoured Dartmouth and, after an appeal by the Heathens to the RFU, the Hampshire club were excluded from the competition and Dartmouth RFC were reinstated.
Neighbours Totnes RFC were due to travel to Fareham Heathens last Saturday to play in the semi-finals of the PJC.
However, Totnes instead faced Dartmouth in the semi-finals on Norton Field.
In glorious weather both teams put out their possible strongest teams, although Darts were missing Jake Bridgwood, Sam Churchill and Myles Churchill, who were out with niggly injuries.
On 12 minutes, young Darts winger Josh Squires caught a high ball in his half and set off down the touchline. He passed inside to number 10 Jack Gordon, who took play into the Totnes half. Gordon offloaded to Luke Boot, who made ground before slipping an inside pass to ever-green John Dingle who was on hand to crash over the line, conversion by Jack Gordon for 7-0.
Within minutes, Squires made another break upfield. Jack Gordon was on hand to receive the pass and he broke a tackle only to stumble and the try went begging.
Karl Caunter and Ryan Burrows made battering runs up field and even on 20 minutes, the visitors were feeling the pressure and looking tired.
Xav Picot playing number 11 for Dartmouth was good under high balls and he put in some penertrating runs.
Pressure from the Darts forwards in the form of Brogan Taylor and Ricky Seymour resulted in a penalty. A quick tap-and-go by Karl Caunter resulted in him crossing the line from five metres out for 12-0.
Just before half time, Luke Bridgwood broke free from a tackle and passed to Jack Gordon, who made ground before returning the pass back to Bridgwood to go over under the posts. Jack Gordon converted to make it 19-0.
Within three minutes of the second half, Luke Boot gathered a loose ball and ran some 50 metres before passing to his number 10, Jack Gordon, who crossed wide out for 24-0.
It was great to see Kyle McGhee back playing after being red carded and he joined John Dingle in splitting the visitors’ defence wide open. It was John Dingle who found Luke Bridgwood in midfield and a quick pass saw Bridgwood score under the posts. Converted again by Jack Gordon for 31-0.
Back came the Dartmouth forwards of John Dingle, Kyle McGhee, Ryan Burrows and Tom Clark who made ground with ball in hand before passing to full-back Richard Lobb, who again threw a dummy pass before waltzing through a gap for a try and 36-0.
Captain Karl Caunter set off on a battering run, which resulted in him scoring the final try for Dartmouth. Jack Gordon converted to make it 43-0.
Andrew Tomkinson, Dartmouth manager, said after the game: “Against Totnes we kept focused and kept to our game plan for the full 80 minutes and were always in control.
“To reach the finals of the Papa Johns Community Cup is a dream come true for the team. It will be an experience for our players, especially our younger team members, who have never played in a final before.
“It is the icing on the cake to finish the season in style by playing on Saracens RFC’s StoneX stadium in London.
“I’m sure our club coaches of Nick Shillabeer, Reg Varney and Chris Chater will be more excited than the players. However, they now have to select the Dartmouth team sheet.
“It is just unfortunate that the final against Chess Valley is on the Coronation and Bank Holiday weekend (Sunday May 7 with an 11am KO. It is hoped that the final will be live streamed.
“We do feel sorry for Fareham Heathens RFC, who were excluded from the competition, but RFU have strict rules that have to be adhered in such competitions.
“I believe that Dartmouth deserve their place in this final.”
Man of the match was awarded to Number 8 John Dingle.
Dartmouth RFC would like to thank Deano and Sarah from the Market Tavern for sponsoring this game and thanks also goes out to Jonathan Pope of the Dolphin Inn for providing the after-match food.
The club are currently in the process of organising accommodation and travel for next Sunday’s final, which will hopefully be live-streamed – keep an eye on Dartmouth’s social media accounts for more.
The final will be against Chess Valley RFC from Hertfordshire, who beat Watford RFC in their semi-final.
At the time of going to press, it is pleasing to note that out of the 100s of teams who entered the PJC, the only teams left in the competition from Devon and Cornwall are Dartmouth RFC and Launceston RFC. Although in different leagues within the PJC, teams like St Ives, St Austell, Truro and Helston RFC all lost their games last Saturday.
Dartmouth squad against Totnes: Ryan Burrows, Tom Clark, Matt Meacock, Brogan Taylor, Dec Hammond, Ricky Seymour (VC), Karl Caunter (C) ,John Dingle; Jaime Kearney, Jack Gordon, Xav Picot, Luke Boot, Luke Bridgwood, Josh Squires, Richard Lobb; Kyle McGhee, Jack Paddon, Fred Bancroft, Leo Willey, Luke Bonstow, Ben Bruckner, Tony De Burgh, Rob Varney.