Eastbourne 17 – Ashford 10
Ashford travelled along the south coast on Saturday to play Eastbourne and were greeted with strong winds and torrential rain. There were the now customary number of changes due to unavailability and injury, Ben Gray and Tom Brookes made their 1st XV debuts and acquitted themselves ably stepping up from the 2nd XV.
Ashford played up the hill and into the conditions first half and it wasn’t long before Eastbourne’s experience of playing the slope told, as the early pressure they exerted resulted in a penalty which was easily slotted between the posts. The pressure continued and Eastbourne scored a try after moving the ball nicely through their backline to score out wide, this was converted and early on the signs were ominous as Eastbourne were 10 points to the good. This young Ashford side are made of sterner stuff however and for the remainder of the first half they played tight, controlled rugby utilising their pack led by Captain Dan Brown to make significant inroads up the field. The likes of Andy Ticehurst and Craig Coggle were punching hole after hole in the Eastbourne defence and the signs looked promising. Ashford showed their inexperience and lacked the composure to turn the pressure into points however, but at half time it was a job well done with no further points conceded.
The 2nd half started at a pace and Ashford used the conditions well to gain territory and put the home side truly under the pump. The scrum, as has been the case over the last few weeks was a constant source of good possession but the Ashford lineout struggled all game to function correctly and the inability to win clean ball here really hampered their chances of success. Despite the error count creeping up for both sides, Ashford maintained field position and after a number of big drives from the Ashford pack it was left to prolific try scorer Ben King to go over for his 5th try of the season, this was well converted by debutant Gray and when a penalty was awarded shortly after, Gray again confidently stepped up to slot the penalty. 10 – 10 with 5 minutes to play and Ashford looking far more capable of scoring the winning points. Shaun Woolford was pulling the strings well from fly half and despite clearly limping with a leg injury, made another break which was unfortunately turned over and Eastbourne marched up the field.
Ashford were to be denied though, as a mistake from their own scrum led to the Eastbourne pack having a put in, they went through the phases and scored a well worked try which they converted. Ashford deserved a lot more than a point and were desperately unfortunate not to come away with more after what was a heroic effort with a number of players playing through with injuries. In order to win these games moving forwards, Ashford will need to show more composure and variety in how they attack and learn from these harsh lessons.
Ashford return to Kinney’s Field for the last home game of 2016 as they entertain Old Dunstonians in what will be another hotly contested clash.