Folkestone lose to Aylesford in a hard fought game
Folkestone have had a disjointed start to the season with practice matches cancelled, some retirements and a crop of pre-season niggles and injuries.
AYLESFORD 1st XV 33 FOLKESTONE 1st XV 22
Saturday 9th. September 2017 London 3SE. Report by Alan Schofield.
A welcome return to the rugby season was celebrated more by Aylesford than by Folkestone for this opening game. Folkestone have had a disjointed start to the season with practice matches cancelled, some retirements and a crop of pre-season niggles and injuries. All of which have been disquieting for the new coach Darren Molloy and the new Director of Rugby – Keith Woodward.
After a bright and competitive start The Stones faded in the last quarter of the game and we could see that the team that accumulated 89 points against Aylesford last season was struggling with a crop of injuries, facing a side who seemed to last the distance a little better. Local information was that The Bulls had strengthened their playing side by 22 players – either returning from injury, or joining the Club.
Josh Holt tested the Bulls defence twice in first 5 minutes as sharp running and passing created space and opportunity for The Stones. But Aylesford were able to regain their lost ground with strong kicking, followed up by some quick running. It was The Bulls turn then to show their attacking force which came to fruition after 12 minutes when their forwards retained possession and forced a touchdown near to the posts – duly converted. 7 – 0. And a second setback quickly followed for Folkestone when an injury to James Lunnon’s leg saw him helped off the field. This brought on Michael Gardner after only 12 minutes and The Stones struck back with some very good rugby from forwards and backs – pushing The Bulls back into their own 22 metre area, before they conceded an offside penalty easily converted by Seyhan Fell. 7 – 3.
Within 2 minutes it was 7 -10 as a kick through was gathered by John Eustace– to put his own kick forward into space, but rebounding from the knee of an opposing player – straight back into Seyhan Fell’s hands. With clear space and Thomo Murray at his side, 55 metres were covered in seconds – and inside pass from Seyhan Fell saw Thomo Murray run round to touch down near the posts.
And before the small crowd of loyal Folkestone supporters had finished cheering, Jon Morton had seized the ball from the kick off, and crashed through a defending tackle to see a clear 60 metres to the line – and with six men chasing him, outpaced them all to run in a second try. Seyhan Fell converted and a healthy scoreboard for the visitors read 7 – 17.
Then two incidents turned the game upside down. Firstly, the ever active Lewis Howland was carried off with a knee injury (replaced by Kyle Deakin) and then a good three-quarter move by The Bulls saw a long pass to the left wing who unfortunately put his foot 50 cms over the touch line directly in front of an Aylesford player acting as touch judge. No flag was raised and the fast wingman ran over to score under the posts. As this incident was wholly and clearly witnessed we can only reflect with dismay on this untypical and lamentable action.
And salt was rubbed into this wound when The Bulls ran in another try, breaking through a rather ragged defence, but leaving Chris Petley on the ground with a serious shoulder injury (collar bone.) Alex Box came on as the third replacement before half time gave the Stones chance to assess the situation and reassemble. 19 – 17.
The threefold disruption to the Folkestone team, and some forced positional changes put them at a disadvantage in an hitherto evenly matched game. Early in second half, The Bulls found gaps in the defence and Seyhan Fell and Jordan Godden were forced into try saving tackles. Sam Beech had to leave the field with a shoulder injury. Mat Roots was a constant problem for the opposition when he had the ball, but generally Aylesford began to show a little more strongly. A forced defensive kick into the dead ball area gave The Bulls a five metre scrum, from which the No 8 came strongly round the blind side and scored a good try to increase the lead to 26 – 17.
The Stones were adept at pick and runs, and their handling was secure – but when The Bulls had the ball they used the strengthening wind to kick long downfield. More minor knocks and injuries had Ashley Fry, the team physio, looking like the 16th player such was her attendance on the field. Steve Doughty was treated, Jordan Godden was limping and Seyhan Fell needed the ‘sponge’. But undeterred there was a spirit, albeit waning slightly, amongst the Folkestone players that still resisted Aylesford, using their fresh replacements to good effect.
A couple of penalties conceded and a short kick through put The Bulls into a strong attacking position that resulted in their bonus point try. 33 – 17. But The Stones were not finished yet and helped by two quick penalties ground was gained and John Eustace forced through within metres only to be held up by four opposing players. Then, winning the ball from a ruck the play was switched to the left with Jon Morton blasting through in the centre and releasing the perfect pass to Josh Holt to run on well to score Folkestone’s third try. 33 – 22.
The game ended with Folkestone counting the injuries they had amassed and reflecting on the score that should have given them a bonus point had the integrity of the game been played for 80 minutes instead of 79 minutes.
There were excellent performances from Jordan Godden and Mat Roots, whilst Chris Petley and Lewis Howland both played very well before their injuries. Seyhan Fell was reliable as ever and Jon Morton showed skill and determination in leading the team. It is hoped that the coming week’s training sessions will be able to reshuffle the available players for the first home match on Saturday against Hastings & Bexhill.
Team: Seyhan Fell; Josh Holt, Jon Morton (Capt.), John Eustace, Thomo Murray; James Lunnun, Lewis Howland; Bob Porter, Steve Doughty, Mat Roots; Jake Ellis, Kieran Smith; Jordan Godden, Sam Beech, Chris Petley.
Subs: Michael Gardner, Alex Box, Kyle Deakin.
Scorers: Seyhan Fell 3, 2, 2; Thomo Murray 5; Jon Morton 5; Josh Holt 5.