by Phil Keet
Following the qualification round of matches held at Ashford the previous Sunday, Folkestone were drawn against Gravesend in the Bowl Final played at Aylesford Rugby Club. A lunchtime kick off on a warm, sunny, spring day with firm conditions underfoot made for a flowing game of rugby that allowed both teams to run the ball.
Folkestone kicked off and following an incursion by Gravesend into the Folkestone 22, the Folkestone pack regained the initiative and entered deep into Gravesend territory. After a further series of rucks and mauls with Folkestone in the ascendency, Gravesend conceded a penalty within their 22 which was punished by an excellent tap and go try by Tom Boreham, converted by Ryan Morgan. Following the restart, Aylesford found themselves once more on the back foot with the Folkestone pack again threatening their line. However the ball was lost by Folkestone and recycled to one of the Gravesend wings who demonstrated an impressive burst of speed leaving the Folkestone defence in his wake. After running the length of the pitch the ball was touched down in front of the posts, however the resulting conversion attempt was missed which meant that Folkestone retained a slender 2 point lead. Following the restart, Folkestone’s pack once more imposed themselves on the match and after several recycled phases, Jack Baker demonstrated his impressive running prowess by making it across the line for a worthy try which was again converted by Ryan Morgan.
After the restart the game resumed its previous pattern with the Folkestone pack once more winning the ball and driving deep into the Gravesend half. Territorial advantage ought to have been rewarded but turn over ball led once again to the ball being passed out wide to the Gravesend winger, who repeated his earlier feat of speed and ran the length of the pitch scoring another try. The conversion attempt was again unsuccessful and Folkestone found themselves with a 4 point lead which they managed to retain as half time arrived, despite several well worked moves by Gravesend who came within an inch of scoring out wide, great defence and an impressive drive keeping the opposition at bay and allowing a kick for touch and half time. The half time whistle was a welcome respite for Folkestone who were showing signs of fatigue as the warm weather and frenetic pace took its toll.
After turning round 14-10 ahead at the break, Folkestone began the second half with renewed vigour and the score line was kept level by inspired displays of defensive tackling with both sides showing high levels of commitment. There was little between the two sides although territorially Folkestone began to have the edge as the half progressed. The strength of the Folkestone pack eventually told and Gravesend were forced to concede a penalty close to their line. Once again, Tom Boreham showed quick thinking, taking a quick tap, forcing his way over the try line out wide thereby providing Folkestone with a valuable 9 point cushion.
The game, played in great spirit up to this point, suddenly boiled over and from nowhere one player from each team was correctly red carded by the referee for coming to blows; the Gravesend player probably for initiating the brawl and the Folkestone player for retaliation. This brief occurrence, totally out of character for the match as a whole, seemed to subdue both teams for a while but as the game moved into the final quarter, Gravesend began to show a renewed sense of purpose and once more their speedy wing found himself running the length of the pitch after eluding several despairing Folkestone tackles. This was a crucial passage of play that could quite easily have led to a Gravesend try thereby reducing Folkestone’s lead to a mere 2 points. Fortunately for Folkestone, Will Falkener was on hand to deliver the tackle of the match, resulting in the Gravesend winger being shunted into touch resulting in a Folkestone line out. Folkestone then held on for the remainder of the match and were relieved to settle for a 9 point victory thereby winning the Bowl. The whole squad put in a committed performance demonstrating that in spite of injury and non availability of some squad members Folkestone possess the team spirit and prowess needed to grind out a successful result.
Tom Boreham 2