Ashford continued their preseason fixtures with an away trip to Cliffe on Saturday. Cliffe who were only formed as a club a year ago were keen to test themselves against some higher league opposition and based on their performance wouldn’t look out of place in Kent 1.
The home side were clearly pumped up for the game and the first 20 minutes was pretty much all Cliffe who used their large forwards to good effect by attacking the Ashford fringes. Ashford defended resolutely and weren’t likely to be intimidated by this aggressive approach as they are well used to facing larger physical packs. So they soaked up the early pressure and in the second 20 minutes started to play some of their own rugby. The Ashford scrum went from strength to strength through the game and having driven the home side off their own ball Callum Stuckey picked up and crashed over to open the scoring with a well taken try, duly converted by Steve Tanner. Later in the first half an excellent catch and drive off a lineout allowed Ben King to score another try making the score 0 – 12 at half time.
With a squad of 21, changes were made frequently and despite some players taking up a number of positions the second half was full of enterprise and some excellent attacking rugby from Ashford. Jack Weaver who seemed to relish the space of playing wider out scored 2 excellent tries which were both easily converted, and in truth but for a number of poor final passes Ashford should have scored another 5 or 6 tries over the course of the game. Cliffe have tremendous heart and a number of quality players and they scored a well-deserved consolation try and should have had another but for poor final hands of their own.
This was a bruising and highly physical encounter played by 2 sides who clearly enjoy the battle up front and 2 backlines who on another day would have scored more tries. Ashford have now played 2 and won 2 preseason games and under new Head Coach Chris Dengate they will get better and better over the coming weeks. With lots of competition for starting shirts and 2 more preseason games to come, there are plenty of players who will want to put in big performances both at training and on Saturdays in order to play a part in the first league game of the season on the 9th September.
This Saturday Ashford are hosting their inaugural festival of rugby where the 1st and 2nd teams will be playing higher league opposition in the form of Canvey Island. The festival runs over the whole weekend with many sections of the club playing games and running training sessions so it should be a great weekend of rugby for all.