Anchorians faced visitors Sheppey on a beautifulAutumn afternoon at Darland Avenue in a game which, unfortunately, never quite reached the high standards set in earlier matches. In fact, Anchs put in a fairly lacklustre performance, especially in the first half, but still emerged with maximum points in a 38 – 15 win to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.
The game started well for Anchs when Sheppeyfailed to gather the kick off, Anchs were awarded a penalty which they kicked to the corner, won the lineout and moved the ball for Chris Everest to beat the Sheppey defence and cross the line for a try which went unconverted.
Despite the good start, the game never really gotgoing and became a very stop-start affair for the next 30 minutes. Sheppey opened their account with a penalty and displayed dominance in the scrums. So much so that they put Anchs under constant pressure and were awarded a string of penalties. After missing a second kick at goal they chose to kick for the corner and from the ensuing attack Jon Mann was yellow carded for slowing down the ball at the ruck. Sheppey took the scrum and used their advantage to drive theAnchs pack over the line to score a try whichwas duly converted to give the islanders a deserved 5 point lead.
With their kicker off the pitch, Anchs missed a kickable penalty and also had to rearrange their scrum in an effort to combat Sheppey’s strength. However, as half time approached Anchs got back into the game and came close after a couple of good breaks from Mark Barfoot and Ryan Lehane. While still down to 14 players, Anchseventually scored a second try which was almost a carbon copy of the first with Kenton Parbuttthis time crossing the line. Again the conversion was missed but Anchs were back level at 10 – 10 when the half time whistle went.
Anchs have been dominant in the second half of their games this season and this game was to be no exception. With Anchs back to 15 players, the penalty count started to go against Sheppey and they received a yellow card for a deliberate knock on. A quick tap penalty saw Kenton Parbutt cross for his second try, which Jon Mann converted to give Anchs a 17 – 10 lead. With Anchs running game proving too much for the Sheppey defence, Jon Mann took another quick tap penalty and fed Sam Brown who took off on a long curved run, beating several defenders, for a great try under the posts which was again converted.
Anchs made several changes, but Sheppey were still in the game with their strong pack and in particular a fine all round performance from their number eight. The visitors received a second yellow card, but still managed to score a superb try when they broke through the centres and fed the ball wide to their young winger, playing his first game, who used his exceptional speed to outpace the Anchs defence and score in the corner.
With the game opening up, Anchs hit back with Jon Mann making a break and scoring under the posts for a try which he converted. As full time approached Mark Barfoot received the ball on the wing, and recalling his early days in the backs, put in a deft chip, regathered and raced over for Anchs sixth and final try which Jon Mann duly converted.
Another bonus point victory means Anchs sit alongside Ashford at the top of Kent 1, but this was one of those games which proves that nothing can be taken for granted and Anchs will need to work hard to maintain their record. They can however take comfort in the fact that they can pick up their game when necessary and have the firepower and fitness to overcome most sides over the full 80 minutes.
By Ian Brenton