So the waiting was finally over by 3pm Saturday as Dagenham's 1st XV travelled to Canvey Island in what many expected to be one of our toughest encounters and so it proved
Having been relegated from London 3 last season by a single point and recruited well over the summer Canvey could be considered one of the favourites for the league title this year, this coupled with one significant change in the pack, where 19 year old 4th choice hooker Christopher Warner came into the squad following injury an unavailability meant the D's were rightly concerned about the days game. Losing your first choice second row to illness on the morning of the game didn't help either. However 80 minutes later and a MoTM performance from young Warner and all was rosy in the Central Park outfits garden !
The game was really one of 2 dominant sets, Canvey in the forwards and Dagenham in the back line.
Playing with a very strong wind in the first half the men in Red and White couldn't quite get their game together and the Canvey game plan of 10 man rugby kept the D's on the back foot for large portions of the opening quarter.
However the D's pack started to win some of their own ball which allowed a momentum shift. The opening score of the half came from No8 Mitchell Sinfield with a powerful drive and with the conversion slotted by fly half Frankie Neale, who had an excellent game with the boot getting 6 from 7 in horrendous conditions for kickers, the score was 0-7 to the visitors
Canvey then had a concerted passage of play as their driving game paid dividends for them scored in the corner for 5-7.
The half continued in this way as Canvey used a limited but very effective game plan to try and break down the Dagenham line while Dagenham defended superbly and forced turn overs which the backs punished. The second try coming from Lewis Pruce after a flowing move from our own half for 5-14
Next up more Canvey pressure was once again turned over and the electric wheels of Billy Driver saw Dagenham gain the upper hand as the half finished 5-21 to the visitors.
Some changes to the defensive patterns where made at half time and this gave the D's a more solid approach in the second half which would, after early pressure from Canvey which resulted in a converted score, once again through their driving play for 12-21, mean the game would be Dagenhams
Sinfield once again powered over for a superbly converted try 12-28, before flanker Matt Viera scored from another powerful run 12-33. Perry Cook ran in a superb finish for 12-40 before the game was rounded off with Captain Nathan Farrell finishing under the posts for a final score of 12-47 and a 5 point bonus win.
Director of Rugby Brian Wren had this to say after the game.
"We knew we would be in for a tough test today and the conditions in terms of wind but also a horrible pitch didn't help.
Canvey have a huge pack who were very effective for around 60 minutes and constantly put us under pressure, and with a few late changes to our side it was touch and go for a while.
Our pack stood up though and eventually our fitness and pace out wide told for what is a fantastic win against a side I fully expect to be there or thereabouts at the end of the year.
Our back line is a match for anyone in Essex and I mean anyone and once again they showed how clinical they can be.
Frankie Neale had a superb day with the boot and controlled things well, and our back row competed superbly throughout. While I wouldn't say this was our best performance by any margin, we should credit constant Canvey pressure for this, you cant argue with a bonus point win in your first league game.
Next weekend we are up against Clacton who bring another solid pack so we will work on our weaknesses in the week and get some things changed so we can take that challenge on"
Great performance lads and on to next week !