Pulborough v Gillingham Anchorians London & SE Division – London 3 South East, 14:00 25th Jan 2020

Anchs made the long journey to Pulborough with a much changed side to face 4th placed Pulborough, looking to stem a run of defeats. It was however to prove another difficult day in what turned out to be a high scoring encounter.

Pulborough opened the scoring with a penalty, but early on it was clear that the Anchs pack had the edge on their opponents, particularly in the scrum. After being awarded a penalty, Anchs took a quick tap and Kenton Parbutt was on hand to crash over for a try which went unconverted. 

In what was a very open game, Pulborough soon hit back when they finished off some good handling with a converted try out wide which restored their lead. This was to prove a feature of the match as, despite Anchs domination at scrum and lineout, the home side was able to break the Anchs defense, both on the flanks and through the middle, and they were rewarded with two further tries.

With a good supply of possession, Anchs looked to attack whenever possible and following a break by Neil Alexander, who was playing in the centre and making good ground with ball in hand, the referee awarded a penalty for a Pulborough infringement together with a yellow card. With Anchs winning their lineout inside the Pulborough 22, they drove but the maul was illegally collapsed and Anchs were awarded a penalty try and the home side received a second yellow card. 

As half time approached, Anchs trailed by 10 points but in what proved to be a critical moment, the 13 man Pulborough side managed to retain possession through a number of phases and scored their bonus point try which, together with the conversion, gave them a 29 – 12 lead. Anchs did manage to pull back some points just before half time when quick hands saw Mac Perry go over in the corner and Ollie Woodward added the 2 points to reduce the deficit to 10 points at half time.

Playing down the slope in the second half, Anchs capitalized on a Pulborough mistake early on when Neil Alexander again broke the line and fed the ball outside, only for Anchs to be held up over the line. From the resulting 5 metre scrum, Anchs used their scrum dominance to good effect when captain and Number 8 Mark Barfoot scored a push-over try to give Anchs a 4 try bonus point. Ollie Woodward added the conversion to bring Anchs within 3 points of the lead. 

Anchs then had their best period of the game with the pack still on top and the backs handling well, but they were unable to make it count. Anchs made some changes with Harris Debonnaire coming on for his first game on the wing in place of Mac Perry (who was to return to the field when Ollie Dawes, playing at fullback, was forced off) and Rory Turner replacing Nathan Dennis on the flank. 

Somewhat against the run of play, Pulborough again threw the ball wide and outflanked the Anchs defense to score their 5th try which was converted to restore their 10 point lead, a lead which they would not relinquish. Anchs certainly had their opportunities to hit back and, as time began to run out, on a couple of occasions they eschewed the option of kicking a penalty to secure a losing bonus point. Instead they opted for the scrum but the home defense held out and the opportunity was lost. With time nearly up on the clock and Anchs resigned to defeat, Pulborough broke out of defense and, despite initially being thwarted by the Anchs defense, they eventually crossed the line for another converted try which ensured a solid 43 – 26 victory.

With Anchs hoping for a minimum of two points from this encounter, they will be disappointed to come away with just one bonus point, and will reflect on both the tries they conceded and the failure to convert their own chances. Next week’s home fixture against Park House now becomes a critical match, when Anchs will look to capitalize on the good form shown by their pack with a return to their free flowing running game which saw them start the season so well.


By Ian Brenton

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