Anchs returned to Darland Avenue for their first home game of the new year against 2nd placed Folkestone. The expectation was of a tough encounter playing a team against whom they conceded 71 points in their last meeting earlier in the season, and so it was to prove.
Anchs started well in ideal winter playing conditions but it was not long before the lively Folkestone back line breached the Anchs defence. The resultant lineout inside the Anchs 22 saw the Folkestone pack win their ball, drive and crash over for their opening try which was expertly converted from out wide.
The referee awarded a series of penalties to Anchs but they wasted a couple of opportunities to put Folkestone under pressure when they missed kicks to the corner. Despite the Anchs pack achieving parity in the set pieces, the Folkestone backs always looked dangerous and after a clean break they were only thwarted by an excellent covering tackle by Tom Williams. Anchs also had their chances, with Tom Williams breaking through the backline and Will Rush with a kick and chase following a neat lineout move, but were unable to capitalize. In contrast to the Folkestone backs, Anchs passing lacked the same crispness meaning they struggled to make inroads. In an, at times, niggly match Folkestone received a yellow card, shortly followed by yellow cards for both Tom Golding and Nathan Dennis. Folkestone took advantage of their numerical superiority with another well converted try in the corner and then just before half time, with Anchs on the visitors’ line, the ball was dropped and Folkestone immediately turned defence into attack and Anchs conceded a try at the other end to give Folkestone a comfortable 0 -21 lead at half time.
Anchs turned round at half time looking to put Folkestone under pressure, initially by kicking for position, after which they had a good period on attack. However, after being awarded a kickable penalty they took the option of a scrum but were denied when both scrum half Jordan Mitchell and then no. 8 Mark Barfoot were held up. Folkestone continued to look capable of scoring but some excellent scrambling defence managed to keep them from adding to their lead.
Eventually the visitors broke blind from a ruck inside the Anchs 22 and quick hands enabled them to score their bonus point try in the corner. Anchs brought on Alfie Luckhurst and Neil Alexander for Richard Kyle and Nathan Dennis respectively but Folkestone continued to attack and, with Anchs again down to 14 men after a yellow card for Kenton Parbutt, the visitors scored their 5th try with a driving maul.
With full time approaching, Anchs were on the break with ball in hand, but the referee called play back after another fracas had broken out and awarded a penalty to Folkestone. Anchs managed to keep Folkestone out, but right on full time another fight broke and Folkestone received a red card for throwing a punch but Jamie Stevens was also red carded after coming on to the pitch and getting involved in the melee.
Their 0 – 31 victory clearly demonstrated Folkestone’s superiority but the Anchs pack can take some credit as they matched their opponents, particularly in the set pieces. Anchs will undoubtedly be disappointed with their start to 2020 and now face a difficult away trip to Pulborough before a crucial home game against Park House.
By Ian Brenton