Gillingham Anchorians v Old Williamsonians London & SE Division – London 3 South East, 15:00 14th Sep 2019

Anchs opened their 2019-2020 league season with a solid victory against local rivals Old Williamsonians (“OWs”) on a warm and sunny afternoon at Darland Avenue.

The early exchanges saw both sides looking to gain an advantage but no clear cut chances could be found by either side. Anchs created the first opportunity when a break by Jon Mann resulted in a penalty which Anchs kicked to the corner. However, the home side failed to take advantage, and were soon back on their own line following an OWs kick and chase which resulted in a 5m scrum, although a well organized Anchs defence held out.

The deadlock was eventually broken when following a dominant Anchs scrum, Dan Perry went over from close range and newcomer Ollie Woodward converted for a 7 – 0 lead.

Following a break by Tom Williams, Ryan Lehane picked up at the breakdown and charged down the blind side to cross the line, but was called back by the referee for being in front of the ball. Anchs did however extend their lead when Ollie Woodward kicked a penalty which had resulted in OWs receiving a yellow card.

Anchs continued to look strong in defence and were benefitting from a dominant scrum, other than a couple of lapses. However, prop Joe Granger received a yellow card after a team warning. The visitors hit back when they moved the ball wide and crossed in the corner for an unconverted try to bring the score back to 10 – 5.

Anchs came up with an intricate lineout move just before half time, showing the results of an excellent pre-season, but were unable to add to their lead at the half time whistle.

Another debutant Connor Russon came on at hooker for Paul Knight at the start of the second half, but playing down the slope Anchs struggled against a resurgent OWs. While Anchs defended well they were unable to stop a push over try legally and the referee gave a 7 point penalty try to put OWs in front.

Losing their lead resulted in Anchs raising their game and they were rewarded when a break by Ryan Lehane resulted in another penalty which Ollie Woodward duly converted. As the forwards, lead by Neil Alexander, Dan Perry and Ryan Lehane, continued to make good ground, Anchs went further ahead when Dan Perry fed Jon Mann who went over in the corner. Chris Everest came on for debutant Tom Golding and Anchs continued to dominate. A high kick from defence was lost by OWs and immediately turned into an attacking move which new winger Dan Powley finished with pace under the posts for Ollie Woodward to add the easy conversion.

An excellent passage of play against a fading OWs side resulted in a penalty on the OWs line. Anchs chose to take the scrum and moved the ball wide where Neil Alexander was in support and he crashed through the OWs tacklers for the bonus point try which was again converted by Ollie Woodward.

Anchs finished strongly and added a fifth try when centre Jamie Stevens went over in his first game, with the conversion taking the score out to 39 – 12.

Anchs will be pleased with an excellent start to the season on their return to London 3, in which they put together some excellent passages of play and showed that their defence is again solid and well organized. Added to that, they have a kicker who kept the scoreboard ticking over when needed and an ability for the team to create scoring chances from anywhere on the field.

By Ian Brenton

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