Pulborough 57 -Ashford 14
Ashford made the final long away trip of the season to Pulborough and shorn of even more experience due to work commitments, they went with 17 players rather than the expected 18. All 17 players did their club and themselves incredibly proud on a day when they faced the league leaders who were clearly in the mood to let their skilled backs run amok.
Whilst the result was undeniably fair the score line flattered Pulborough slightly as their far superior fitness and strength in the backline eventually told with them scoring 6 tries in the final 22 minutes. Still, as mentioned this was a performance with strangely many positives from an Ashford perspective, Charlie Norman returned from holiday and had an excellent and abrasive game eventually covering both prop positions, Mason Pilcher at 17 years old played superbly in the 2nd row and managed to flatten a number of the opposition with his no nonsense approach, and Lewis Remington was a dynamo around the field. In the backs the young half back pairing of Weaver and Gray showed plenty of potential, Harry Norman had a very solid game on the wing as did Macauly Jordan until injury ended his game early.
The game started brightly with both sides moving the ball well, Pulborough opened the scoring with 2 quick fire tries before Ashford demonstrated their obvious forward power with a number of forays towards the Pulborough line. Weaver at 9 showed a return to form and was marshalling his troops well when Will Welsh smashed over to score a well-earned try, converted by Steve Tanner who had a solid day with the boot. Pulborough came straight back and scored a third try just before half time when the Ashford linesman missed the obvious foot in touch to allow the home sides prop a walk in he didn’t deserve. Still, 15 – 7 at half time felt like a fair reflection of the initial 40 minutes, Ashford knew the home side now playing with the slope and wind would be a handful in the 2nd half and so it proved correct.
Once again the Ashford pack proved they’re a match for anyone in the scrum and under the leadership of Danny Leech gave a far improved showing in the lineout despite some obvious limitations. Pulborough though did what they’ve done all season which is move the ball wide with precision allowing powerful strike runners to come onto the ball and on numerous occasions tore through the Ashford side. Ashford were able to score a second well worked try after more sustained pressure led to Andy Ticehurst taking a great ball down the blind side to score a well-earned team try, this was again converted from out wide by Tanner. The Pulborough 10 continued to pull the strings and 3 more well worked tries followed before the referee blew his final whistle.
Mention must go to Captain Rhys Fussell who was a constant source of positivity and excellent leadership and alongside the more experienced Leech, King and Tanner formed a group who motivated and inspired the young side all game. This was a side with 9 players aged 21 or under and they all learnt a lot, not least the levels of fitness that are required to challenge in this league. This experience though tough to take will no doubt be of huge benefit to all these youngsters as they develop into leaders of the future.
Ashford return home this Saturday as they face fellow league strugglers Eastbourne in what will no doubt be a closely fought affair.