There was a buoyant atmosphere at a rain drenched Kinney’s Field early on Saturday afternoon as Ashford continued their quest to lift the National Junior Vase, a competition which sees the final at Twickenham. A pre-game guard of honour by a group of the Ashford mini’s section added to the excitement for all involved, and as the referee signalled the start of the game there was a large crowd to cheer the boys on against what was an unknown quantity in Royston.
Ashford started at a frenzied pace as their pack though clearly the smaller in size smashed their opponents with some hard running lines and a well-functioning lineout where once again Callum Stuckey was imperious. Within 2 minutes a catch and drive led to the forwards marching their opposition back before Dan Brown broke and scored a well earned team try. Steve Tanner who had a rare off day with the boot missed the conversion but the away side were visibly shocked at this start.
The next 15 – 20 minutes saw Ashford continue the onslaught but a lack of clinical finishing and some poor decision making meant that no further points came and Royston were well in the game. The Royston boys were solid if not spectacular in attack and started to make some inroads although any meaningful inroads came from Ashford mistakes in the main. Conditions were becoming ever more treacherous and as Royston got some attacking field position they attempted to bludgeon their way to the line. The Ashford defence nowadays is a real strength of theirs and with Danny Leech leading his pack on the front line alongside the tireless Redman and Remington they weren’t for budging.
Half time 5 – 0, everyone involved knew it should’ve been more but Ashford were confident of getting the result.
They came out in the 2nd half and immediately gave away a penalty to Royston who were clearly fired up and not ready to lose. They launched a number of attacks again which didn’t seem to trouble Ashford until a lapse in concentration saw their 7 run away and score, 5 – 5 and not the start Ashford had wanted.
From this point onwards Ashford never looked like losing and didn’t give Royston another chance to score. On a pitch that now resembled a quagmire, the Ashford pack turned the screw again in the Scrum and with Man of the Match Charlie Norman and Ben King destroying their props they had complete dominance which was leading to a number of penalties. Ashford continued to apply the pressure and a Callum Stuckey pick fed captain Fussell whose quick hands saw Farai Myezwa score in the corner. The home side were now going for the kill and some more excellent work by the big boys up front saw Fussell snipe round and score another well taken try.
The final 15 minutes were played out in the middle of the pitch but to cap the win off it was fantastic to see home debutant Will Blyth step his way past 2 flailing defenders to score his first of many tries in the 1st XV and secure the result.
So Ashford have now won all of their last 10 fixtures are now 3 games away from Twickenham, still in the Kent Vase and pushing hard to move up the Kent 1 league. There are many challenges ahead but after 3 seasons of gloom at Kinney’s Field there’s a spring in everyone’s step and real optimism for the remainder of the season.