Gillingham Anchorians v Heathfield & Waldron London & SE Division – London 3 South East, 15:00 21 st Sep 2019

Anchs welcomed Heathfield & Waldron (“H&W”) to a warm and sunny
Darland Avenue on Saturday and, despite a poor start, emerged
victorious to finish the day at the top of the league.

The home side lost hooker Paul Knight with a hamstring injury after
about 5 minutes and he was replaced by Will Rush. Both sides were
missing touch with their kicks, but H&W looked the stronger side and
took an early lead when their winger went over in the corner. Jon Mann
was yellow carded for a high tackle and a fine conversion from out wide
gave the visitors a 0 – 7 lead. Down to 14 men, Anchs struggled to
contain the H&W attack. A try saving tackle by Matt Callow was soon
followed by 2 more H&W tries in the same corner as the first try. A
single conversion gave H&W a 0 – 17 lead and it looked like it was going
to be a difficult afternoon for Anchs.
Slowly, Anchs fought their was back into the game, their defence
improved and they started to create their own scoring opportunities.
The reward came when Tom Williams used his pace to go over in the
corner for an unconverted try. After missing a penalty from about 35m
out, Ollie Woodward converted a second attempt from virtually the
same spot. There followed a piece of magic from prop Dan Perry, who
dummied, broke through the gap and chipped ahead for Jamie Stevens
to outpace the defence and gather the ball to score under the posts. The
conversion by Ollie Woodward brought the scores level and Anchs
finished the half with a dominant scrum but the H&W defence held out.
Turning round to play down the slope, with their confidence restored,
Anchs started the second half slowly and soon found themselves behind
again when H&W eventually broke the Anchs defence after being
camped on their line. The score gave H&W their 4 try bonus point and
the conversion put them 7 points ahead. Anchs recovered, and whilst
back on attack they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts. Jon
Mann took a quick tap but was stopped illegally, allowing Ollie
Woodward to convert the penalty to reduce H&W’s lead to just 4 points.

As time moved on Anchs began to dominate up front but H&W always
looked dangerous on the break and, with the bounce of the ball going
their way, almost extended their lead, but the ball was lost over the line.
Anchs brought on Tom Hopgood and Taylor Parbutt for Alfie Luckhurst
and Jon Mann respectively. Back on attack, Anchs were awarded a
penalty and H&W were reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for
persistent infringement. Anchs kicked to the corner but missed touch
but from a scrum in the corner Anchs pressure eventually told when
Jordan Mitchell went over from close range to restore the lead. The easy
conversion hit the post but Anchs soon extended their slender lead
when Jamie Stevens crossed out wide for his second Anchs bonus point
try, and this time the conversion went over off the post to give the home
side a 32 – 24 lead.
H&W were by no means finished and hit back with a converted try under
the posts which reduced Anchs lead to a single point. Despite missing a
penalty, Anchs extended their lead when Ryan Lehane put Matt Callow
in the clear and he raced over for an unconverted try. Anchs continued
to take the game to H&W and the forwards created a gap for Neil
Alexander who broke through, beat the last defender, celebrated the
match winning score and then touched down under the posts. The
conversion was again missed, and despite a last minute try by H&W
which gave them their second bonus point, Anchs held on for a 42 -36
win, which looked extremely unlikely after the first 15 minutes.
Anchs now sit at the top of the table with 2 good home wins and 2
bonus points from their first 2 games. They will be very pleased with
their comeback and how they finished the game but travel away to
Folkestone next week where they will need to ensure they start well.

By Ian Brenton

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