Ashford 15-17 Gillingham Anchorians
A dismal day weather-wise, matched by a frustrating game of rugby punctuated by numerous errors, poor discipline, and generally speaking not Ashford’s finest hour.
Slow out of the blocks, Ashford were soon trailing after feeble defence let Anchorians through to score a converted try and establish an early 7-0 lead. Ashford started to come into the game slowly and after 28 minutes a catch and drive from the lineout led to Dan Brown crossing the line for his 11th try of the season. Steve Tanner was unable to convert in what were seriously blustery conditions.
The last ten minutes of the first half saw the good and bad sides of the home team. The bad – losing a player to a yellow card offence, the good – the way the team responded, dominating possession and securing a try when Andy Ticehurst read the play well to intercept and race away to score a second try, again unconverted, and securing a 10-5 half time lead.
The second half saw Ashford extending their lead, thanks to Ben King picking and crossing the line after a sustained period of close quarter attack. Ashford were now ahead 15 – 7 and looking comfortable against opponents who looked limited in their attack.
That feeling did not, however, last long . With 25 minutes to play, Ashford capitulated under pressure, conceding 3 more yellow cards and leaking 10 unanswered points from a penalty and try. The second score again showed Ashford’s Jekyll and Hyde nature when, following a period of sustained pressure on the Ashford line, the home team won turnover ball and launched a counterattack from their 22. With the touchline 10 metres away and a 3v2 overlap on offer, Ashford chose to take the ball into contact, spilled the ball in the ensuing tackle, handing possession back to their opponents who then went over courtesy of poor tackling by Ashford.
Ashford at one point were down to 12 men, but ironically in this period showed character to hold their opponents off! With the game entering the closing ten minutes, Ashford were still within striking distance trailing by only two points and secured two penalties in Gillingham’s 22. The first kick was missed narrowly, the second – even closer to the visitors’ line – saw a botched kick to touch to secure a lineout 5 metres out handling possession to the visitors and finishing off Ashford’s hopes of snatching a win. Ashford had had their chances to win the game but lack of execution under pressure from a number of players meant that Anchorians were able to see the game out.
Generally speaking the season so far has fallen into three parts. A rocky start, a period of consolidation and an impressive 12 game winning streak, followed by a period of uncertainty with Cup and League losses. We have put lesser teams to the sword, but against better opposition, we have not shown enough conviction to establish a lead and close out games. The question now with 3 games left is – does this squad have the capacity to recognise where they need to do more,, address their shortcomings and finish the season in the style they will want to take into their next campaign come the autumn.