Old Gravesendians v Gillingham Anchorians London & SE Division – Shepherd Neame Kent 1, 14:00 5 th January 2018

Anchorians travelled to Gravesend after a 3 week break to face 3rd placed Old Gravesendians (“OGs”) in what was expected to be a difficult encounter. And so it proved, with Anchs suffering their second defeat of the season in a niggly game which never really flowed.

Initially things looked positive when, playing up the slope, Sam Brown made a break on the blind side, fed Mark Barfoot who in turn fed winger Dave Starowicki. He made good ground and passed back to Mark Barfoot who was supporting on the inside and he went over in the corner for the opening score. The conversion was missed and OGs slowly got their game going. They were making good inroads through the backs with Anchs missing a number of first up tackles. The game was punctuated with numerous penalties and with the game being played predominantly in the Anchs half it wasn’t long before OGs converted a penalty to reduce Anchs lead to 2 points. The visitors had a let off when it looked like OGs were going to score in the corner but the game was called back and OGs were awarded a scrum in midfield. OGs almost crossed the line again, but were denied by a superb covering tackle in the corner by Mark Barfoot, but they did go ahead with another penalty awarded for Anchs not releasing the ball in the tackle. Anchs were struggling to win good ball with a number of lineouts going astray and the pressure eventually told when a penalty was awarded to OGs on the Anchs 10m line but was advanced following backchat to the ref which allowed OGs to convert for a 9 – 5 lead. Anchs did manage one promising attack started by newcomer Neil Alexander who had a solid debut, but the OGs defence was up to the task and the opportunity to retake the lead was lost. With half time approaching OGs went on attack and camped on the Anchs line. A string of penalties conceded by Anchs eventually resulted in Jon Mann being yellow carded and then OGs were awarded a 7 – point penalty try to give them a 16 – 5 half time lead.

Turning around to play down the slope in the second half, Anchs still had the opportunity to turn things around. The commitment was obvious when Adam Davison tackled his opponent and carried him fully 10m on his shoulder before putting him down safely, but Anchs were still penalized for going off their feet in the ruck. What followed was Anchs best period of play when a sweeping move saw them handling well and running positively which ended with Adam Davison taking a quick tap penalty and going over under the posts. With Jon Mann still off the field, Dave Arnold added the conversion. OGs continued to look dangerous and started to dominate possession. They extended their lead to 7 points with another penalty awarded for offside. Following another OGs penalty miss, Anchs went in search of victory and spent time on the OGs line, which resulted in a yellow card for OGs. Anchs were finally rewarded when Jon Mann fed Kenton Parbutt out wide and he went over for a try to reduce the deficit to 2 points. Unfortunately the conversion was missed but Anchs pressed for the win and were awarded a penalty under the OGs posts. However, Jon Mann decided to take a quick tap but was caught and the opportunity to win the game was lost. Despite time being up there was an extended period of added time due to the number of stoppages but Anchs failed to capitalize on their dominance of possession and territory and when OGs were awarded a penalty they kicked the ball dead to ensure victory, although there
followed a fracas involving most of the players as the final whistle went. OGs deserved their win and Anchs only have themselves to blame as they rarely reached the standards set earlier in the season. Anchs did however retain their second place in the league table but will now find it more difficult to catch runaway leaders Ashford.

By Ian Brenton

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