Final Score: Ashford 10 – Folkestone 19
After two seasons apart in different leagues, Ashford hosted Folkestone in their first home league game of the season. With the forecasted light shower turning into an afternoon deluge, coupled with a reasonable wind blowing down the pitch, the side that played the conditions best would be in all likelihood the victors.
Ashford made a number of changes from the previous week, including Liam Murray and Craig Coggle on the bench, Jack Weaver at scrum half who was making his league debut and the return of Tommy Murray into the front row.
The home side started with a bang, and for the first time in a while the large crowd were treated to the site of an Ashford pack dominating their opposition. The return of Murray clearly making an impact in the scrum and having a galvanising effect on the rest of the forwards. This early pressure soon told when with a scrum close to the Folkestone line, Ashford secured ball to allow Dan Brown to smash through the line for his first try of the season, this was well converted by Steve Tanner. So 10 minutes gone, 7 – 0 up and looking good. Ashford continued to dominate up front and whilst not looking fluent in the backs looked like causing problems with Rhys Fussell probing well with some smart kicking and the debutant Weaver looking lively. The fact that no further points were scored during this first half pressure can be attributed in the main to some poor Ashford mistakes, lack of discipline and the odd strange refereeing decision. As it was Folkestone were beginning to get their tails up and some sustained pressure resulted in a penalty, which for the Folkestone full back was an easy 3 points, half time 7 – 3.
Playing into the wind, the 2nd half was always going to be about Ashford making smart choices, unfortunately these were few and far between.
Folkestone started brightly and Ashford did well to defend their advances before enjoying some pressure of their own. Earlier injuries to forwards Jake Fletcher and Will Welsh seemed to have an effect most felt at the breakdown where Folkestone were winning the battle and were helped by a number of penalties given away by Ashford. Folkestone’s pressure eventually told and a poor error allowed them to score a converted try, taking them into the lead for the first time in the game with 25 minutes to play. The introduction of Liam Murray gave the backline some more experience and a couple of smart breaks showed what he will be capable of with more game time. Ashford bounced back and should have taken the lead, the forwards were working through the phases and it felt like a try was imminent when the decision to go wide was taken, the ball fumbled and Folkestone let off the hook. The sides exchanged penalties leaving the score line 10 – 13 with 10 minutes left.
This was the last time Ashford looked like scoring and once again indiscipline and mistakes gave Folkestone easy territory and an additional 2 penalties, kicked easily by their reliable full back. Folkestone in the end running out deserving winners 10 – 19.
Post-match there was much chat about some of the refereeing decisions amongst the supporters but in truth this is a game Ashford should have won regardless. The positive was certainly a forward pack which now looks capable of taking on anyone in this league and once Ashford finally learn to eradicate the needless mistakes and curb the indiscipline the results will come.