Cranbrook v Gillingham Anchorians London & SE Division – Shepherd Neame Kent League 1, 15:00 23 rd March 2019

Anchorians travelled to Cranbrook to face the only team mathematically able to beat them into second place in Kent 1, and a possible playoff against the second placed team in Sussex 1. It was, however, to prove a difficult afternoon against a much improved Cranbrook side.

Both sides looked to move the ball and Cranbrook were looking good with ball in hand, but Anchs took the lead early on with a Jordan Mitchell penalty. The Cranbrook backs were finding holes in the Anchs defence and soon hit back when they moved the ball wide and went over in the corner for an unconverted try. Not to be outdone, Anchs put winger Tom Williams in space and he used his pace to outflank the Cranbrook cover and he scored a fine try in the corner which was converted to give Anchs a 5 – 10 lead.

The home side continued to make breaks with some good handling at pace and also some kicking options which turned the Anchs defence and kept them under pressure. In fact, Cranbrook took the lead again when they chased a kick and beat the Anchs cover to the ball for a converted try. Cranbrook continued to challenge Anchs defence with their running and kicking game but despite making several breaks the Anchs cover defence kept them out. Cranbrook did however extend their lead with a penalty and then scored their third try just before half time to give them a 20 – 10 advantage at the break.

Playing down the slope in the second half, Cranbrook immediately went on attack. While Anchs struggled to exit their own 22 for a significant period, excellent one on one tackling by full back Jon Mann, good defensive work by returning back rower Neil Alexander and a couple of lineout steals by Richard Kyle on the Anchs line kept Cranbrook out. Jack Lloyd came on to replace Alfie Luckhurst in the second row for his first league game, but Cranbrook continued to press for their bouns point try. They were finally rewarded when they kicked a penalty to the corner, won the lineout and drove over for an unconverted try.

From the kick off Cranbrook immediately went back on attack and were further rewarded when they converted another penalty in front of the posts for a convincing 28 – 10 lead.

Needing to score at least a bonus point to guarantee second place in the league, Anchs finally picked up their game in search of the two scores which would give them a losing bonus point. A good break by Kenton Parbutt finally gave Anchs an attacking position but, despite several attempts at crossing the line from close range, they were kept out by some tenacious Cranbrook defence. Eventually Anchs did make the pressure count when Neil Alexander drove over in the corner, assisted by Ryan Lehane.

With victory out of site, Anchs continued to press for a try to bring them within 7 points, but things started to turn against them. Richard Kyle was yellow carded for talking back to the referee and Anchs went on to concede a string of penalties and free kicks. When they were finally awarded a penalty on their own line, with time up, Anchs kicked the ball dead to end the game.

There can be no complaints that the best side on the day won this game, so Anchs still need a singe bonus point, either next week at home to Kings College Hospital or away to Footscray in the final week, to secure second place, and the opportunity to play off for a place in London 3 South East next season.

By Ian Brenton

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