Anyone looking at the final scoreline of 48-9 could get the impression this was a one-sided game. In fact, for 50 minutes of the game, visitors HSBC dominated possession and forced Ashford to concede a series of penalties. The key difference between the two sides in the first half was that each time HSBC pushed, they won and converted penalties, whilst Ashford scored tries. And hence the ten point 19-9 margin at half time.
HSBC were first on the board, with stand off Miguel Martinez-Martin converting the first of three first half penalties. In response Ashford registered three tries, the first from newcomer Adam Donoghue, the second a Knight Brothers special, as Adam fed Ben the scoring pass, and the third testament to the power of Danny Bushell as he brushed defenders aside to score in the closing seconds of the half. Together with two conversions from stand off Will Blyth, Ashford reached half time with a solid 19-9 lead.
The third quarter of the game saw Ashford consolidate their advantage. After an initial ten minutes in which HSBC dominated possession but failed to reflect this on the scoreboard, Ashford registered three tries, the first following good forward driving play resulting in Ben King touching down, the second a case of fresh legs, in Dan Brown replacing the injured Adam Donoghue, to round off a sparkling backs move with a score in the corner, the third a great solo effort by Captain Chris Baker, breaking tackles in the midfield and running in to score between the posts. Charlie Colman added the conversion.
With a comfortable 36-9 cushion going into the last quarter, Ashford upped the ante with Lewis Remington and Steve Tanner coming off the bench. The closing ten minutes saw, two more Ashford tries, the first from Steve Tanner, chasing a kick ahead by Charlie Colman, outpacing the despairing defence and controlling his grubber kicks before pouncing on the ball to score. The second came with the final action of the day, with the Ashford pack stretching the visitors’ defence before Grant Burdon exploited a gap close to the line to secure an opportunist try. Steve Tanner’s conversion rounded off the day’s play, topping off a 48-9 victory.
Ashford can draw a number of pluses from this game. Their defence was aggressive, allowing few opportunities for the opponents to cross their line. The pack showed great potential and will want to sharpen both lineout and scrum if they are to dominate in future games. The backs showed great running skills and will want to focus on improving the precision and weight of passing to increase their attacking threat. Next Saturday’s game is at Cranbrook, and will give a good indication of the team’s ability to perform on the road. Cranbrook will be looking for a big response, following an opening 37-27 loss to Southwark Lancers last Saturday, and will want to do better in front of their home crowd.
Saturday provided a hat trick of wins for the senior men’s teams, with Ashford 2s beating Faversham by 24-19, and their 3s securing a 41-0 win against Old Gravesendians. 1st XV Captain, Chris Baker said “It is great to see all the hard work in pre-season being rewarded. It’s encouraging to see all three men’s teams making a winning start, but we are conscious that tough challenges lie ahead, so there will be no complacency but a desire to keep improving across the season”.