Aylesford 25 – Ashford 0
A bitterly cold and wintry day with snow showers during the warm up was the pre cursor to a huge game for both teams. Like Ashford, Aylesford have languished at the foot of the table for the season and having been soundly beaten at Kinney’s Field would be clearly out for revenge. For Ashford with the league games running out this was a real must win in order to keep hopes of surviving relegation alive.
Ashford made the customary weekly changes to their squad due to a number of players been unavailable for various reasons, and having now used 40 players this season it is clear that strength in depth is vitally important to be successful. This though isn’t an issue only Ashford face as when speaking to all clubs it is clear that using 40 plus players is the norm rather than the exception. The absences allowed Ashford to bring Lewis Remington into the squad which was just rewards for some great performances and hard work in training, they also rolled back the years with the combatable Joe Lakin back training and on the bench.
Ashford started very well with Will Welsh in particular leading the way with some barn storming runs and the pack in general bossing the set piece, this early pressure failed to yield points as not for the first time a lack of composure and decision making let Aylesford off the hook. The home side started to exert their own pressure and were starting to get on terms up front, and with their half backs pulling the strings they looked dangerous with ball in hand. Their hard work told and an unconverted try let Aylesford take the lead, they added to this with a penalty and with Ashford starting to fall off some tackles and drop their intensity at the breakdown the half time whistle was welcome. 8 – 0 down was considered fair at half time, Ashford rung the changes with a view to sharpening up the decision making and getting over the gain line quicker.
Ashford again started well, with Lakin adding some useful go forward in the backs and Nathan Wood almost scoring with some excellent footwork out wide. Up front Ben King and Danny Leech not for the first time were leading the way with fantastic work rate and aggression up front and Matt Richards seemed to be everywhere, making tackle after tackle in tandem with Shane Redman. Still for all the positives, Ashford again lacked the composure to turn pressure into points and let Aylesford wrestle back control to score 3 more tries, secure the bonus point and deservedly take the win.
The reality for Ashford is that barring a massive swing in points they will be playing their rugby in Kent 1 next season. There is no doubt that the squad will fight until the bitter end to avoid this and the pleasing thing is that the issues they have faced this season have only served to galvanise the team spirit. With a number of players demonstrating leadership qualities, plenty of colts getting valuable 1st team experience and a new Head Coach planned for next season there is reason regardless of the league outcome to be positive for the future.