Dover RFC 36 – 22 Ashford RFC
With three weeks to go until they play their opening Kent League 1 game at home to HSBC on Saturday 8th September, Ashford made the short trip down the M20 to take on Dover in a warm-up game last Saturday.
For Ashford Coach, Chris Dengate, this was a trip back to a club he had previously coached. “This was a good opportunity for Ashford to benchmark themselves against a team that was playing three leagues above them last season” said the Ashford Coach. “Dover were relegated last season, and are keen to bounce back this season, so we were sure to be tested to the full as they prepare for their games in London and South East 2”.
The opening twenty minutes were even, with Dover building pressure through a series of attacks that were repulsed by a solid Ashford defence in which Danny Bushell and Grant Burdon were to the fore. Dover opened the scoring following a midfield mistake by the visiting side, but Ashford showed their mettle by pressing into the Dover 22, and following good build-up work by their pack rounded it off with a try by Dan Brown. The latter part of the first half provided more of the same, with Dover again capitalising on an Ashford error, and then visitors responding with probably the try of the match with Shane Redman running in a try from 30 yards out. At half time, Dover enjoyed a slender 12-10 lead courtesy of converting one of their two tries.
The second half proved equally competitive, with Dover scoring to extend their lead to nine points before two scores by Ashford, tries by Dan Brown and Ben Knight gave the visitors a narrow 22-19 lead going into the last quarter. As the game closed out, Dover’s physicality and experience proved decisive and they scored three late tries to secure a winning 36-22 lead.
“This was an encouraging first outing” said captain Chris Baker. “ We proved competitive against opponents who play at a higher level, and our scrum gave them a torrid time in tight and loose play. We were exposing a number of young players to a higher standard and they came through well. This augurs well for the coming season”.
Both teams will have drawn a number of lessons from this game. Ashford has a pack that will be competitive and able to set the platform for their backs, who will relish the chance to attack off a solid base. Just as importantly, the team showed the capacity to defend aggressively, allowing more experienced opponents little opportunity to cross the gain line.
Thursday’s game against Canterbury 2s will provide another stiff test for Chris Dengate’s squad, and between now and the opening league fixture, the focus will be on sharpening skills so that the 2018-19 campaign gets off to a positive start against HSBC on 8thSeptember.