Old Mid Whit-Giftians 19
Ashford travelled away to Old Mids as they’re known locally to face a completely unknown quantity having never played them to anyone’s knowledge. This was the 2nd round of the Junior Vase, a competition with a final at Twickenham and one which both teams seemed keen to contest.
It was wet, grey and generally miserable as Ashford kicked off but following on from 2 victories on the road, Ashford started very brightly playing some smart rugby and showing a real purpose to their work up front as they clearly dominated their opposition. The return of Captain Fussell over the last couple of weeks, and in particular his return at 9 has given the side a vocal presence for the forwards and some smart distribution for the back line. It was Fussell pulling the strings in the first 20 minutes, as the pack made continuous inroads not the least by the outstanding Tom Perkins who gets better and better each week, this caused the away side to yield penalty after penalty. As soon as the Ashford side got within striking distance the posts were called for, and soon Ashford were 0 – 9 up as Steve Tanner kicked 3 consecutive penalties.
The final 10 minutes of the first half belonged to the home side who seemed to wake up and really tested the Ashford defensive line which worked hard, showing great line speed and plenty of physicality in defence, Old Mids took 3 points before half time as eventually Ashford conceded a penalty.
The 2nd half was a strange half of rugby, the home side playing with the slope and wind, kicked for the corners continuously, clearly using a tried and tested strategy honed over many years to utilise the conditions. Old Mids scored 10 unanswered points in 15 minutes and were suddenly in the lead and looking like the only likely winner as their pack started to gain parity in the set piece.
Ashford came back with a Baker/Myezwa combo, in a similar fashion to the previous week Myezwa gassed his winger with Baker supporting to collect a pass and race away to score, Ashford were suddenly ahead again by a point. Back came the home side who through continuous pressure forced penalties from Ashford and their smart kicking fly half slotted 2 in quick succession to leave the score at 19 – 14 with almost 20 minutes still left.
It’s fair to say that earlier in the season this Ashford side maybe would’ve folded at this point, but the team developing now is made of much sterner stuff and show real character when the pressure comes on. So after a last rallying call from skipper Fussell, Ashford played the final 10 minutes like it was a cup final. Charlie Colman made a smart break and though his pass was slightly awry the stand out Dan Sherrin collected and fed Captain Fussell to race away and score under the posts, Tanner converted and Ashford saw out the final 4 minutes to secure an excellent victory.
This victory was a testament to perseverance above anything else, it certainly wasn’t perfect and there’s plenty to work on but there’s a fresh energy about Ashford 1st XV at present. This will be tested to the max in the next few weeks, not least this weekend as Ashford go away again to 4th placed Kings College.