Ashford RFC 15-5 Medway RFC
Tries: L.Kelly, E.Hamlet (2)
Despite a number of injuries Ashford Ladies still had the luxury of putting out 21 players against an undefeated Medway side. In front of a large home crowd Ashford would need to deliver an outstanding performance to garner some much needed points towards their mid-table battle.
After a positive start the game was momentarily halted when one of Medway’s Props required urgent attention after a collapsed scrum. Switching pitches both sides looked evenly matched from the restart, but the visitors were the first to finally break the deadlock. A mid-field breakdown set-up a mis-match of Backs versus Forwards and a powerful run from Medway’s Centre punctured the defensive line. The ball eventually went wide and beyond the covering defence for the game’s opening score.
Undeterred, Ashford continued to press, making solid gains in territory and applying pressure to visitor’s defence. Following a succession of penalties Ashford found themselves close to Medway’s try line. From a quickly taken tap, replacement Jodie Gardiner took the ball into contact forming a maul, and Ashford’s powerful pack proved unstoppable as they drove over the line. Fellow Prop Leanne Kelly did the honours, grounding the ball from the back to level to score.
Outside Centre Hannah Sweatman almost gave Ashford the lead before the half, after her penetrating run and devastating fend broke free of Medway’s backline. Looking clean through it took a superb covering tackle from the opposition Full-back to finally bring down the powerful Centre.
Closing out the half 5-5 Ashford started to feel as though they had moved into the ascendancy and a win was possibly within their grasp.
From the restart the home side held fast to their game plan – holding their defensive shape around the breakdown and imposing their physicality in the tackle. Medway still a threat looked to capitalise on their territorial gains, after a penalty saw Ashford pushed back deep into their 22. The visitors almost got their reward, charging down Fly-half Katie Allen as she looked to exit. The loose ball eventually wound up in the hands of Medway, but momentum denied the visitors as the ball carrier crossed over the dead-ball line.
The intense physical contest around the breakdown saw an increasing number of infringements, bringing about numerous penalties in Ashford’s favour. From 5 metres out Scrum-half Laura Charter looked to go quick and Flanker Emma Hamlet was on-hand to crash over and take the home side into the lead.
Usually at home on the flank Ellie Drabble had her work cut out as interim Inside Centre. The temporary Three Quarter found herself repelling multiple backline attacks as Medway probed for any weakness in Ashford’s defensive line.
Putting the pressure back on the opposition, Ashford worked hard to win back possession and force Medway all the way back to their own try line. As the visitors looked to exit, Centres Drabble and Sweatman swamped the ball carrier and the ball broke free in the contact. Hamlet reacting quickest dived on the loose ball for her second try of the game.
With the deficit only 10 points the visitors continued to search for a way back into the game. Ashford held fast in defence, relieving the pressure as the opposition’s penalty count continued to escalate. Maintaining their discipline the home side were more than happy to keep possession of the ball and run down the clock for a significant home victory and the perfect way to close out 2017.
Players-of-the-Match: Forward Gemma Simpson | Back Hannah Sweatman