A win to cancel out the defeat at Gillingham Anchorians earlier in the season.
But the previous week’s encounter against Aylesford must have given the home team great confidence, especially in defence, and so their opponents found themselves facing a very different situation on this bright and beautiful day for open rugby.
FOLKESTONE 1st XV 26 GILLINGHAM ANCHORIANS 1st XV 8
Saturday 11th March 2017 London 3 South East. Report by Alan Schofield
Folkestone were anxious to erase thoughts of the earlier encounter between the two teams when the Anchorians ran in six tries against a woeful defensive effort. But the previous week’s encounter against Aylesford must have given the home team great confidence, especially in defence, and so their opponents found themselves facing a very different situation on this bright and beautiful day for open rugby.
John Eustace moved to centre three-quarter and in came Thomas Snare, Ross Dempsey and Jake Ellis who, with Adam Tolman and Thomo Murray made six new faces from the previous week – but changes such as these during this season are all to be expected. Fortunately the coach, Leigh Fitchie, has a wealth of players to pick from as injuries and other commitments take their toll.
Anchorians never saw much of the ball before they were 7 – 0 down to a James Mead try (converted by Seyhan Fell) after only three minutes. Seyhan Fell started an attacking move from a clearance kick, swung the ball right through Jon Morton who, with a quick pass, found James Mead running on to touch down unopposed.
The game began to take shape when it soon became clear that the home pack had the measure of the visitors. The set scrums were firmly held but the loose mauls were dominated by Folkestone – often making between 10 and 20 metres in controlled scrummaging before Chris Petley, the ball carrier released his backs. Gillingham had some fast running backs, as they so amply demonstrated in the earlier fixture – but this time The Stones were ready for them with, grabbing them before they had time and space to get into top gear with the back row of Chris Petley, Ross Dempsey and Kieran Smith able to avert the threat.
James Lunnun put a long 45 metre kick bouncing into touch to put Anchorians back in their 10 metre zone, they knocked on in the line giving The Stones a scrum and in a training ground move Ross Dempsey had the cover going the wrong way when he fast passed to James Mead, on the left wing who powerfully ran through to increase the lead to 12 – 0.
Anchorians fought back hard and for fully 10 minutes Folkestone had to use everything they had to stop them scoring. Will Melia, Ben Stringer and Tom Snare stopped anything coming through the middle whilst the tackling of Chris Petley, and John Eustace was firm and decisive. Chris Petley alone stopped a certain try when a kicking and running move down the right wing was only stopped inches short. But before half time The Stones regained their composure with cross field moves that stretched the visitors to the limit. Seyhan Fell, never reluctant to join the three-quarters and Josh Holt both being pulled down just short of scoring.
The second half saw Jordan Godden (delayed in travelling to the match) come on for an injured Steve Doughty and Adam Tolman made a welcome return to the team after a four month knee injury recovery.
It seemed The Anchorians were confused at the different style of scrum halves whereas Kyle Deakin was pin point accurate with long, fast passes to his backs – Adam Tolman retained possession and took the play right into the thick of the action before changing direction and passing out, often to the blind side. And it was this tactic that started a move when Will Melia broke clear and cutback infield, brushed aside tackles and took the ball into the 5 metre area. The forwards, quick to follow up – as ever, created the maul from which Kieran Smith powered his way through for the third try after 51 minutes. Seyhan Fell converted and the score moved on the 19 – 3.
After his well-earned rest Kyle Deakin replaced James Lunnun who had picked up a minor injury after another deft display at fly half and was immediately put to work as Gillingham mounted another concerted series of attacks to try to get themselves back in the game. Jordan Godden and Chris Petley stopped a fast move inches short down the right wing that had The Stones in disarray – and the opposition forwards tried the direct line. But such is the confidence of the team squad that no team has succeeded this year in making progress through the Folkestone pack of forwards.
After 70 minutes with The Stones having resisted a lengthy period defending their lead, Josh Holt was replaced by Thomo Murray who was immediately in the action with a passing movement that saw The Stones regain ground and retain it well into the Anchorians 22 metre zone. Kicking didn’t help them as Ross Dempsey stood out in the line outs and, using a variation of moves had his opposite numbers chasing play back to where they came from.
Jake Ellis, having had as good a game as I have seen, took a well-earned rest with Steve Doughty returning for the last 10 minutes. Folkestone were back in control of the game, especially in the forwards and when another ball was well won in the ruck – Adam Tolman took it up, fed to Jon Morton to his left and then took a quick return pass and sprinted over the line and under the posts for Seyhan Fell to convert to extend the lead to 26 – 3.
In the very last minute of the game Anchorians retaliated with their undoubtedly fast wings (the same who had run in 6 tries against Folkestone at Gillingham) cut loose and in a bewildering move, at speed, they crossed the width of the field twice before scoring their deserved try for a big, but losing, effort, and the final score of 26 – 8. (This was the first try scored against The Stones in 159 minutes of rugby.) However the final result was a fair reflection of what is currently a very good Folkestone team, fit and with an array of moves that is a pleasure to watch.
The next game, in two weeks, is away at Pulborough - the league leaders - but who the Stones clobbered earlier this season. And whilst the league and promotion places are seemingly outside The Stone’s reach – they have moved up to fourth in the league and challenging for the third place with their Kent rivals Thanet Wanderers even though they have an ostensibly easier final three fixtures.
Team: Seyhan Fell; Josh Holt, John Eustace, Jon Morton (Capt.), James Mead; James Lunnun, Kyle Deakin; Thomas Snare, Steve Doughty, Will Melia; Kieran Smith, Ben Stringer; Chris Petley, Ross Dempsey.
Subs: Jordan Godden, Thomo Murray, Adam Tolman.
Scorers: James Mead 5, 5; Seyhan Fell 2, 2, 2; Kieran Smith 5; Adam Tolman 5.