New Ash Green v Gillingham Anchorians London & SE Division – Kent 1, 15:00 6th October 2018

Anchorians travelled to New Ash Green looking to extend their unbeaten run, but were faced with conditions which were a stark contrast to the previous week. The driving rain, wind and cold proved to be a leveller, and while both sides attempted to run the ball, handling was difficult and the game was much closer than might have been expected.

 

Anchs started well and chose to put a kickable penalty in the corner where they stayed for the next few minutes and applied constant pressure. Despite conceding a number of penalties the home side’s defence repelled every attacking move until the ball was moved wide and Tom Williams sprinted in to the corner to give Anchs a 5 – 0 lead with the difficult conversion being missed.

 

New Ash Green hit back when they chose to kick a penalty to reduce the lead to 2 points but then missed a second attempt from a similar position. The game became a bit of an arm wrestle and was punctuated with a string of penalties and handling mistakes due to the difficult conditions. Anchs thought they had extended their lead when Jon Mann fed Adam Davison on the outside only for the referee to call him back for a forward pass.

 

As the half progressed both sides made breaks but couldn’t convert the chances into points due to a mixture of well-organized defence and handling mistakes. Anchs continued to put the ball in the corner when possible and spent the end of the first half inside the New Ash Green 22 where the home side’s defence held out despite conceding a string of penalties. Eventually the referee’s patience ran out and, while no cards were shown, he awarded Anchs a 7 point penalty try which gave them a 12 – 3 half time lead.

 

Playing down the slope but against the wind in the second half, Anchs were put under early pressure but New Ash Green missed another kick at goal. However, they were rewarded when they ran the ball and a gap in the Anchs defence opened up for them to score under the posts. The conversion was added to reduce Anchs lead to a slender 2 points.

 

With the game was being played almost exclusively in the Anchs half and due to the stop-start nature of the game it had become a niggly affair. Inevitably this boiled over into a brawl when a New Ash Green player kicked a player on the ground. Once the dust had settled, the referee red carded a New Ash Green player, while the main culprit  remained on the field. At this point, with captain Mark Barfoot sporting a head bandage following the fracas, Anchs picked up their game and went on attack. While attempting to put the New Ash Green fly half under pressure Harrison Irons was yellow carded for a late high tackle, reducing the game to 14 a side for the next 10 minutes.

 

Every Anchs attack seemed to be thwarted when they conceded a number of penalties, but they persisited and after winning a scrum against the head, they moved the ball out wide for Adam Davison to score an unconverted try on his return to the team. With a 17 – 10 lead Anchs pressed for the all important 4th try and were rewarded when the New Ash Green full back dropped a high ball and Ryan Lehane picked up and ran 35 metres to crash over, much to the delight of his teammates and those travelling supporters who had stayed out in the rain. With the bonus point secured and full time approaching New Ash Green launched a final attack and scored an unconverted try in the corner to make the final score 22 – 15.

 

This really was a case of ‘job-done’ as Anchs came away with maximum points when even a victory was not assured with 20 minutes remaining. In particular, the pack put in a solid performance with prop Alfie Luckhurst being awarded man-of-the-match. Anchs now have a week off due to a bye in the Cup first round before they face Southwark Lancers at home, against whom they need to maintain their perfect record, before facing fellow pace-setters Ashford in a crunch match away from home.

 

By Ian Brenton

 

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