Saturday represented a momentous occasion for the club as they hosted Chipstead in the Regional Semi Finals of the National Cup where the final would be played at Twickenham. Being only 3 games away from this outcome had brought much excitement to the club and for the 2nd weekend in a row the clubhouse was packed before the match with a large crowd ready to see how this developing and young Ashford 1st team would fair. Chipstead were a relatively unknown quantity although Head Coach Dengate’s intelligence had informed him of a powerful pack of forwards and a resolute defence which yielded few points, it’s fair to say the intelligence was entirely accurate!
Chipstead started at pace using their hard running pack to make large indents into the Ashford defensive line which lacked the energy and enthusiasm that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. When Ashford did get some possession they made numerous errors and poor decisions, resorting often to lazy attack play which was easy to defend. Chipstead were clearly in the ascendancy and after 20 minutes they registered the first points of the day with a well taken penalty, the initial half hour was really all about the away side who bristled with intent and aggression in everything they did and were supported by a large travelling contingent who were vocal throughout.
The last 10 minutes of the first half saw Ashford launch a minor fightback with Lewis Remington and Tom Perkins leading the way in attack and both were excellent throughout. Eventually Ashford secured a score with Tanner taking the 3 points on offer from a penalty before half time. Ashford at half time were lucky to still be in the game as they hadn’t played any of the rugby, if Chipstead had been a little more clinical they would have been at least 1 if not 2 scores up.
The second half started much in the same tone as Chipstead continued to play some really good rugby, Ashford were a little sharper in defence but again in attack looked limited, with individual errors coming to the fore. A yellow card compounded issues and once Chipstead scored the inevitable try to take the lead they never looked back, the score line of 3 – 8 was no indication of the game as Ashford barely launched an attack.
Playing changes were made as Dengate emptied the bench, but sadly these did little to change to flow of the game, and with 2 minutes left Chipstead scored a second well earned try which they converted to secure victory and move a step nearer to Twickenham. The pre match excitement from the home club was gone and Chipstead rightly enjoyed every moment of a great victory built on hard work, intensity and smart decision making, which ironically are the qualities the Ashford boys demonstrated on their recent winning streak, but not today.
A lot of positives have come from this season at Ashford, under the stewardship of Head Coach Dengate the team has evolved and is in the process of creating a new identity built on hard work, positive energy and smart rugby unfortunately on Saturday none of these qualities were demonstrated. Ashford lacked energy, discipline, were without smart leaders and were comprehensively outplayed, it is certain they will want to make sure that the remainder of the league campaign sees a return to the qualities which represent the hallmark of this side.
Ashford return to league action this weekend with a home fixture against Gillingham Anchorians which for both sides is a must win.