Lewes 39 – Ashford 17
Ashford made the long trip down to Lewes to face a side who they has beaten at home earlier in the season but who since then have risen to 2nd in the league and are pushing hard for promotion. It was obvious to all that this would be a significant challenge and with the conditions seeming to favour the large Lewes pack Ashford were braced for a challenge.
Lewes, as expected started in confident fashion using a strong set piece platform and their dominant number 8 to make large inroads but Ashford repelled these well and started to string together some possession with Jack Weaver marshalling his pack well and Aaron Bowes making smart choices to unleash his back line. The home side are 2nd for a reason and they held out under this pressure, and from a resulting lineout drove up field to score the first points after 18 minutes. Ashford came back immediately and were now playing some of the best rugby they’ve played all season, showing clear signs of utilising the game plan and structures and retaining the ball for long periods of play. Their composure yielded reward as the ball was spun wide to Shaun Woolford running a smart line who cut through to score under the posts which was converted by the unflappable Steve Tanner.
The play swung back and forth with both sides showing plenty of intent to move the ball, stability in the set piece and resilient defence. Ashford were perhaps unlucky not to get the rub of the cloth when it came to some dubious breakdown officiating but both sides were putting on a good show of rugby. Lewes once again grabbed the lead back when after a longer than expected advantage was played they created the space to score after a terrific Ashford defensive effort. With a minute to go before half time, Ashford again made significant yards with Charlie Norman and Dan Sherrin especially having a very abrasive day at the office and Oli Finn in the backs having easily his best game of the season. A penalty was awarded and Ashford took the 3 points, half time 10 – 10 with Ashford playing large periods of really exciting rugby.
Both sides came out in the 2nd half and continued the exhibition of rugby although the superior fitness of the Lewes side was beginning to be evident as Ashford started to feel the strain. Lewes turned the screw though and scored 4 tries in 12 minutes to all but end the game and with injuries rising Ashford were hanging on by their fingertips. Not to be un done they came back with renewed vigour and Tom Hinckes who had an excellent game on his return to the 1st team intercepted a pass and run 2/3 of the pitch to score which was converted once again by Tanner. Despite a number of enforced changes it was pleasing to see the Ashford side continue to find the answers to tough questions being asked of them on the pitch and with likes of Jake Fletcher and Danny Leach showed great leadership and decision making under pressure.
Unfortunately with 5 minutes to go the legs finally went and the Lewes number 8 scored his 2nd try of the day to put the result to bed. Lewes were good for the result but it showed once and for all that the work on the training field is starting to pay off and with further commitment especially around their fitness they can more than hold their own against any team in this league.
As a whole squad the performance and commitment was fantastic and bodes very well for the remainder of the season. To see the more experienced heads all playing a part in leading the side helps the young guys to just play their natural game. Ashford now have a week’s break before facing Haywards Heath at home.