For their first game of 2019 at Kinneys Field, Ashford welcomed Foots Cray who were on the receiving end of a heavy defeat when the teams met earlier in the season. The outcome was no better for them, going down to a 17 try defeat, their one compensation being a consolation try, and Ashford running out winners by 105 -5. They continue to top the league with an eight point advantage over second placed Gillingham Anchorians and third placed Old Gravesendians, both of whom they play in February.
Newly promoted to Kent 1, Foots Cray have at times struggled against more experienced teams, and whilst they have enjoyed some success this season, their position in the bottom three highlights the scale of the task they face. With injuries adding to their problems, they approached the journey down the M20 with some trepidation. For their part, Ashford made a number of mainly positional changes, with Callum Stuckey and Dan Sherrin returning to the pack, Rhys Fussell and Aaron Bowes forming a new halfback partnership.
The opening exchanges highlighted the power of the Ashford pack whose driving play created early opportunities, the first score coming with two minutes on the clock, when Logan Chandler finished off a good take and drive by the home forwards. A second try followed three minutes later when scrum half Rhys Fussell released fast ball to the left creating space for Chris Baker to outpace the cover defence. A third try followed a good midfield break by hooker Dan Sherrin that created space for Jamie Farris to score. On the ten minute mark, Ashford secured the try bonus with their fourth, resulting from an initial break by prop Charlie Norman, carried on by Logan Chandler whose inside pass fed winger Farai Myezwa the ball for the first of his five tries.
The scoring rate slowed in the following fifteen minutes, with three tries, a second for Farai Myezwa taking advantage of a Logan Chandler break and a brace for Rhys Fussell who was on hand to round off good drives by the pack. On the half hour, Ashford registered their eighth try, the second for Jamie Farris, following a breakout originating in the Ashford 22. In the last ten minutes of the half, Ashford added two more tries, with Farai Myezwa securing his hat trick, and Danny Bushell being rewarded for all his strong running with a well worked try. Will Alkin’s five conversions brought Ashford’s half time lead to 60 -0.
An early second half score, a fourth for Farai Mywezwa, added to the visitors’ gloom, but they refused to lie down and although occasionally leaking a score, they slowed the home team’s rate of progress and gained some reward for all their efforts. By the hour mark, Ashford added two more tries, Rhys Fussell securing his hat trick and Farai Myezwa rounding off his five try haul.
In the last quarter, a try from Henry Hall gave Ashford an 88-0 lead before Foots Cray registered their first points when good driving play created an opening for No. 8 Kelvin Munroe to score. The visitors continued to press, but courtesy of Ashford’s robust defence and some impressive ball stealing by Dan Sherrin, their efforts secured no more points. Instead in the closing minutes the home side rounded off their account with three more tries from Rhys Fussell and two from Callum Stuckey. With Will Alkin contributing a further five conversions, Ashford finished the day with a 105-5 win, their best result in this season’s league campaign.
“We said going into Saturday’s game that we needed to maintain our high standards” said captain Chris Baker, “We started well and kept going throughout the 80 minutes. Foots Cray were unfortunate to meet us on a day when we played so well, but they showed great spirit and might have scored more points if our defence had not been so resolute”.