Gillingham Anchorians v Ashford London & SE Division – Shepherd Neame Kent League 1, 14:30 16th February 2019

Anchorians faced Ashford at Darland Avenue in a top of the table clash on Saturday in perfect playing conditions. They made a determined start and immediately took the game to Ashford, playing with pace and precision. However, Ashford quickly showed why they remain unbeaten in Kent 1 this season as they soaked up the pressure which Anchs applied and prevented Tom Williams going in at the corner.


When Anchs coughed up possession in the Ashford 22, the visitors immediately took advantage and their speedy winger raced ¾ length of the field to score a converted try under the posts. Not to be deterred, Anchs went straight back on attack and were awarded a penalty which they kicked to the corner. However, on a day where the home side’s  lineout didn’t function well, Ashford regained possession and moved the ball wide and went the length of the field to extend their lead with another converted try.


While Ashford’s early lead had come against the run of play with their 2 tries the result of only 2 visits in the Anchs half, when they did kick a penalty to the corner, they easily won their lineout ball and drove over from close range for a third try which went unconverted.  After 30 minutes Ashford brought up their bonus point try, something Anchs had denied them in the away fixture earlier in the season. A clean break through midfield saw them feed the supporting player who raced unopposed for a try under the posts. The conversion made it 0 – 26 and put the visitors into a commanding lead.


A try saving tackle from Sam Brown denied Ashford as Anchs sought to stem the tide. Anchs had to make a change to their backline and brought on youngster Mac Perry in place of winger Taylor Parbutt. Anchs tried to get back into the game but once again, after a kick to the corner they failed to capitalize when the lineout was lost. To compound matters Ashford scored two further tries from distance, one the result of an interception and another from their right winger who again used his pace to outflank the Anchs defence.


Trailing 0 – 38 at half time it was clear the game was lost against a big, fast well drilled side who had taken all their chances and repelled everything Anchs could throw at them. Anchs faced a daunting task in the second half but managed to show why they are sitting in second place in Kent 1 with a determined performance. They remained competitive in the scrums but struggled in the lineouts and, in fact, they limited Ashford to only two further tries, both of which were scored from close range via a drive from a lineout in the corner.


Anchs continued to look for points and, in their efforts to keep Anchs out, Ashford put in a number of high tackles, which resulted in 2 yellow cards. The drought was finally broken when Kenton Parbutt dived over from close range for a try which was converted from out wide by Jordan Mitchell who capped a fine game played under considerable pressure. A few mistakes crept in as the game came to a close and no further points were added, giving Ashford a well deserved 7 – 48, 8 try victory.


The game showcased an excellent standard of rugby for Kent 1, and it is clear that Ashford will be a force to be reckoned with in London SE 3 next season. With Old Gravesendians having a bye, Anchs remain 12 points clear in second place with 4 league games remaining and must now ensure they return to winning ways to secure a play-off at the end of the season.


By Ian Brenton


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