Aftr the disappontment of last week when the team didn't do themselves justice Darts bounced back with a solid display against old rivals Sittingbourne who always provide tough opposition. With 6 or 7 changes through injury and unavailability Darts were expected to make a slow start whilst players got to know each other but they came out with a bang and imnmediately put pressure on the visitors. The home side's tackling was far better this week and when they kicked the chase and pressure put on Sittingbourne forced them into errors. All the team seemd up for the job in hand and in all areas there was a vast improvement and a variety in their play which kept the visitors on the back foot. Darts welcomed back Garry Jarman at No 8 and his powerful carries kept Darts on the front foot and with Joe Bowmer backin the centre there was an organised look about the team. After the initial probing Darts eventually carved out and finished off a scoring chnace when Liam Bowmer drove over the line after some good interplay. Mike Briggs converted. Darts continued to pressure and with Ed Young and Joe Wheeler using their speed in the back row never allowed the visiting backs time to settle and forced errors. Mike Briggs increased the lead when converting his second penalty attempt. Darts were full of confidence but made a couple of errors when trying to force things in their own 22 and from one of these gave away a penalty which was converted by the visitors to cut the lead back to 7 points. Darts continued to look good value for money and after some further concerted pressure Danny Taylor broke from a ruck and gave a neat pass to Joe Bowmer to score under the posts with Mike Briggs converting to extend the lead to 17-3. Darts didnt really want to see half time as they were in the right gear and looking dangerous. Against a strong scrummaging team like the visitors Darts had to ensure they kept their concentration at all times and 19 year old Matt Randall was playing really well at loose head and Tim Stagg back in the side after injury gave darts a good platform.
In the second half Darts brought on Liam Kent in the front row giving the team 2 sets of brothers on the pitch as Ciarin Kent was making his debut on the wing. Sittingbourne's half time talk had the desired effect of getting them back into the game and Darts found themselves under pressure in their own 22. The home side seemed to have lost a little rhythm and weren't keeping control of the ball as well as they had in the first half and this gave the visitors all the encouragement they needed. Part of the Darts pre season was spent on defence and this proved to be time well spent as the tackling was excellent throughout the team. Skipper Dan Phillips had to leave the field with a small muscle injury and was replaced by 17year old Tom Tuley who was making his debut in the 1st team. Whilst on the pitch he certainly didn't look out of place and is certainly a player for the future. The visitors continued to put on pressure but they couldnt find a way through Darts defence who were committed and organised but eventually Darts found themselves under further pressure when Joe Wheeler was sin binned. As often seen when a team goes a man short the other players up their game and this was the case for period of the sin bin. Sittingbourne however didn't give up and eventually one of their big forwards drove over close to the line. Although the visitors had a lot of possession the Darts line never really looked like being penetrated out wide and whilst their defence kept putting in strong tackles their lead was secure. A couple of fine breaks and moves by Darts could have resulted an a further score but the visitors were also defending well and the game closed with Darts gaining what was probabvly a deserved and hard fought victory against a side who will also be near the top of the table at the end of the season.
Man of the match was Matt Randall who performed brilliantly against a strong and experienced opponent.
Quilter Kids First Champions winner – December: Old Hales RFC