Thurrock prove too powerful in the end and emerge with derby victory
By Ralph Henderson - Nub News contributor
13th Nov 2023 | Rugby
Thurrock 29, Brentwood 14
THIS local derby has witnessed so many close battles over the years that it was inevitable that this encounter would follow the usual pattern and "go down to the wire" on this Armistice Day,2023.
Brentwood and Thurrock share similar histories, although the Oakfield Club preceded Brentwood by over forty years.
Brentwood was founded in 1935 but, after the war had to re- form, attracting players by advertising twice nightly at the now defunct, Palace cinema.
Brentwood picked up players from Warley Barracks and one of the early games was against the Shoeburyness Garrison Defaulters!
Just like Thurrock, the game only took off when people like Gwyn Harris and John Rodhouse initiated the mass immigration of Welsh teachers into Essex in the sixties and seventies. It is with fondness that we remember the likes of Stuart Wilson, Richie Thomas, Dave Cobner and Len Grindall.
Historically, Thurrock had the better of exchanges in the Cup days, with Brentwood edging the League encounters.
There is a respectful rivalry epitomised by the mutual regard of the players who proudly represent the county and the Directors of Rugby, Martin Jones and Steve Killington.
The Thurrock Ground staff had produced a wonderful playing surface as Thurrock kicked off on a glorious autumn afternoon.
Immediately Harry Reynolds caused mayhem at the start winning possession for Thurrock to launch a series of attacks.
The front row of Harry Clarke, Lawrence Brown and George Miles were buttressing the scrum and getting through a colossal amount of work conveying and transitioning from defence to attack.
There was a fascinating duel of the second rows with Dritan Loka and Caolán Watts-Adams having their traditional tussle with Dan Suttle and James Killington.
When Jay Jennings entered the fray, the engagement intensified as the youngster demonstrated his fine handling skills.
The early territorial gains enabled the home side to break the deadlock with a brace of well-struck penalties by Blake Burns. He and Scott Chitty are building a burgeoning half- back partnership that augurs well for the future. Their game management is maturing, and they are bringing the best out of the fearsome consociation of centres Niall Clifford and Henry Bird.
On this occasion it was Harry Reynolds and Angus Poole who were the beneficiaries of their frequent breaches of the opposition defensive alignment.
Nevertheless, it was Brentwood who briefly took the lead following good work from No.8 Eamon Tiernan and Jack Mayes. From an attacking line-out, Kieran Fredericks crashed over.
Fly-half Jamie Cox, who was having his usual confident game, landed the conversion to give the visitors an unlikely lead, before Burns restored order with a third penalty.
Now Thurrock threw off the shackles. Jamie Orr, Kodie Holloway and skipper Ben Timson were stepping and throwing dummies as if they had missed their vocation. They set up a series of free-flowing attacks before the powerful Angus Poole picked up Thurrock's deserved try.
Yet again, Brentwood threw everything into the attack and were only denied by a magnificent" last- ditch" tackle under the posts by Blake Burns.
When Fraser Parris was shown a yellow card, more openings appeared.
After Bird, Clifford, Orr and Reynolds had softened up the midfield, Kodie Holloway waltzed past four flat -footed defenders to drive home the advantage.
The game was fluctuating as both sides tried desperately to gain the upper hand.
Brentwood, were looking sharp on the counter- attack and in Isaac Kibrige they have one of the quickest wingers in the league.
As Thurrock set up a cornucopia of attacks in an attempt to close out the game, the sprinter intercepted and looked ,to all intents and purposes, as if he would score a sensational try.
However, nobody had taken into account the phenomenal speed of Rhys Cotter. The full- back had been threatening to throw off the shackles throughout. Now, from a standing start, he had to hunt down Kibrige! The result was a magnificent chase that led to a memorable tackle and turnover in tandem with Niall Clifford. It was one of the many highlights of the game.
The Thurrock bench of Tom Wileman, Jay Jennings and Kye Holloway brought even more momentum and, after a quick thinking throw in by Watts-Adams, all the backs handled with Reynolds making the break before Jennings finished the move in style.
Brentwood would not lie down and after a series of penalties Aled Williams navigated his way through the morass to crash over. Now Clifford and Timson demonstrated their leadership qualities with a succession of commanding tackles!
On this occasion, Thurrock would not be rebuffed and Burns kicked a simple penalty to put the game out of reach.
This had been an outstanding team performance and just reward for a team growing in confidence and fearing no one.
Thurrock have moved up to fifth place in the League and will look to consolidate their position this week when they travel north to Stowmarket.
You can watch the match in full, with a brief commentary from Nub news editor Neil Speight at one point, via this link.