Folkestone 37 – Ashford 19
The local derby is always a hotly contested affair and having lost in the league earlier in the season to Folkestone the Ashford side were looking to make amends and go into the Christmas break with a morale boosting win. Having made a few changes due to unavailability and also a desire from the coaches to find the winning formula particularly in the forwards there was expectation of a quick start from the away side. It was Folkestone though who started much the brighter of the 2 sides and within 5 minutes their fly half who controlled the game well all day stepped back inside and darted under for an easy try and conversion.
Ashford restarted and immediately put their hosts under pressure turning over the ball at the breakdown and moving the ball with confidence, unfortunately poor decision making led to kicking the ball away and let Folkestone off the hook. Having soaked up the pressure, Folkestone again made inroads into the Ashford half and a scrum on the 5 metre was poorly defended on the blind side leading to an easy try which was unconverted. At this stage the Folkestone pack had started well and through their hard running back row were stretching Ashford to their limits. It was testament to Ashford’s character that they again laid siege to the Folkestone line and eventually Jack Weaver squirmed over for a converted try and Ashford were right back in the game.
Poor defence led to Folkestone moving the ball wide just before half time and resulted in a converted try and Ashford conceding a yellow card, half time 19 – 7 to the home side and down to 14 men.
Ashford kicked off with the slope to their advantage and started positively winning good set piece ball at the lineout which was desperately needed and more than holding their own in the scrum with the props Ben King and Craig Coggle putting in a much better shift. Despite some good possession and glimpses of implementing their new game plan, Ashford lacked the composure to convert pressure into points and were also losing the referee’s decisions at a great speed. Indiscipline led to numerous penalties which once within range Folkestone converted and then scored another try to leave the game out of Ashford’s reach. At 27 – 7 Ashford were playing not for the first time this season for pride and so getting reduced to 13 men was less than ideal, whilst both cards could hardly be argued there was some validity in the fact that the tide of penalties was only going in one direction. Nonetheless Ashford had to accept the decisions made against them and whilst valiantly defending they conceded again and then to compound the misery received another yellow card which was openly perceived as being incredibly harsh.
So with 12 against 15 Ashford decided to throw the kitchen sink at things and scored 2 tries, one through Jack Weaver and another though Andy Ticehurst, both players thoroughly deserved these scores for their tenacity and never give up attitude but it was too little too late, again!
Folkestone deserved the victory and whilst not one of the best teams Ashford have faced this season, they showed more structure to their play, were fitter and demonstrated why they sit with 4 other clubs nearer the top than bottom of this league. Ashford for all their valiant efforts have a lot of work to do and certainly will be pushed hard in the new year to improve their own fitness and structure in preparation for 10 league games which will dictate whether they remain in London 3 or drop another league to Kent 1. The desire is there from players and coaches alike but unless the application matches this, it could spell trouble.