Gillingham Anchorians v Park House London & SE Division – London 3 South East, 14:30 1st Feb 2020

Anchs faced fellow strugglers Park House at Darland Avenue in a must win match which would keep the winner above the relegation zone. Choosing to play down the slope in the first half to put the visitors under early pressure didn’t go the way Anchs had hoped when Park House opened the scoring with a penalty from in front of the posts.

Although the game was being played mainly in the Anchs half, and Park House were moving the ball effectively, the pack again showed dominance in the set pieces, with player-coach Rich Kyle having an excellent game in the second row. The game was punctuated by a number of penalties with the breakdown becoming somewhat of a free-for-all, but when the ball reached Dan Powley on the left wing, he broke clear and fed inside to Ollie Woodward who raced under the posts for Anchs opening try, but then missed the easy conversion.

Not to be outdone Tom Williams, playing at full back, made an outside break down the right wing and sprinted away and crossed the line virtually unopposed to extend the lead, but again the conversion was missed.

For the remainder of the half the game opened up but both sides were guilty of handling mistakes. Anchs spent some time on the Park House line but were unable to add to their score before half time. Turning around with a slender 7 point lead, Anchs still had it all to do in the second half playing against the slope and with the low sun in their eyes.

Their task was to become even more difficult when Ryan Lehane was yellow carded for collapsing a maul. Park House put a superb penalty kick to the corner, and scored from the ensuing lineout although the try went unconverted. Park House continued to attack and when they were awarded a very kickable penalty they chose to kick for the corner. The Anchs defence held out but after conceding another penalty, the visitors took a tap penalty. Paul Knight was penalized for not being back 10 metres and he received a yellow card and this time Park House took the 3 points on offer to put them in the lead.

Jon Mann came on for Tom Williams at full back and immediately had an impact with a good run up the right wing. Anchs looked dangerous with ball in hand but mistakes meant they were unable to capitalize on their possession. After being awarded a penalty out wide in the Park House 22, Jon Mann almost made his way though a cluster of defenders but was held up just short of the try line. Anchs kept up the pressure and were finally rewarded when Jordan Mitchell collected at the base of the ruck and dived over from close range. The conversion again went astray but Anchs were back in the lead in this must-win encounter.

Anchs made a couple of changes in the pack with Neil Alexander and Tom Hopgood coming on for Nathan Dennis and Alfie Luckhurst respectively. Park House went back on attack and looked certain to regain the lead when their fly half raced towards the corner. With the Anchs cover beaten, he then inexplicably dropped the ball and the opportunity was lost. As Anchs desperately defended their lead, they were again reduced to 14 men for the remaining 8 minutes when Joe Granger was yellow carded for a high tackle. 

Anchs were camped on their own line but they managed to keep the visitors out with determined defence. After winning a scrum against the head, Anchs were awarded a penalty which allowed them to clear their lines and ensure a much needed victory.

With a break next week, Anchs now have time to regroup and look to eliminate the mistakes which have restricted their ability to score tries, despite the good supply of possession. However, they will take some comfort from the fact that the pack again dominated the opposition in the set pieces.

 

By Ian Brenton

 

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