FOLKESTONE 1stXV 17 AYLESFORD 1stXV 25
Relegated to play in the local Shepherd Neame Kent 1 league for the first time since 1984
Saturday 14th April 2018. London 3SE. Report from Alan Schofield.
The compelling interest of this fixture prior to the kick off surrounded the implications of the results for both teams. A win would crown Aylesford as league champions and a loss would demote Folkestone to a level of rugby that they haven’t experienced since 1984.
It has been a difficult season for The Stones beset with their squad of players having constantly to be changed because of unavailability, and it has been the case that no two games have been played with the same team – and often players have been called upon to fulfil a variation of positions before and during matches.
Many of soothsayers predicated the result – and they were right, but not in the way that could have been expected. for Folkestone gave Aylesford a fight that they often looked like losing, especially in the second half. The league leaders were stunned, even within the first minute when Liam Trinder foresaw a passing movement and stole the ball to run through 45 metres to touch down under the posts. An easy conversion for Seyhan Fell saw the scoreboard reading 7 – 0.
It took fully 15 minutes for Aylesford to recover and in that time, The Stones had opportunities whilst Aylesford were conceding penalties at the rate of four in seven minutes – trying to subdue the boisterous Folkestone forwards. Seyhan Fell saw a penalty kick rebound infield from the inside of a post as the home team sought to increase the lead. Aylesford were not able to show themselves in any sort of attack until Callum Palmieri hauled down a fast move on the right wing, but a penalty conceded in front of the posts gave Aylesford a foothold into the game after 15 minutes. 7-3. And, again, the right wing was under pressure when an attack followed a kick and a 5-metre scrum was awarded. The Bulls had the impetus and managed to touch the ball down in a melee of players. 7 – 8.
Aylesford now came back strongly with a tactic of long kicks aimed usually to the right and The Stones were forced into defensive positions. Adam Bloomfield was carried off the field with a knee injury and Steve Doughty stepped into the fray. It was now Folkestone’s turn to defend their line - Bob Porter, Colby Hayward and Martin Murray were tackling well, whilst Will Turner tried to recover some ground with sharp acceleration from behind a scrum. Penalties were now being conceded by the home team at regular intervals in desperate attempts to resist. Aylesford missed one of them from in front of the posts but there was no stopping a three-quarter move when the visitors created an overlap and ran through to score on the right wing. 7 – 13.
Another long kick to the right found Folkestone fumbling with the ball and conceding a five-metre scrum that resulted in a massive Aylesford forward push over the line and the third try before half time. 7 – 18.
Whatever was said during the break certainly had an effect as Folkestone came out for the second half and took the game to Aylesford with a vengeance. David Jarvis gained possession as the ball went loose from his solid tackle, Liam Trinder snapped it up and moved left with Will Turner and Adam Tolman crisply handling it before finding Seyhan Fell who was following up. It was all too fast for Aylesford and Seyhan Fell went over to score on the left wing – too far out to convert. 12 – 18.
Now The Stones were the better team as they penned The Bulls back in their own half – and kept them there. Callum Palmieri, linking with Adam Tolman – and fast passing out to Jon Morton and John Eustace had The Bulls retreating, but managing to keep the play on or about their 22-metre zone. Scott Stewart and Jason Baker replaced Will Turner and Seyhan Fell - whose leg injury had not quite recovered from a knock in the Cyprus v Serbia international two weeks previously.
Jon Morton found touch 8 metres out with a penalty kick and Colby Hayward again secured good ball from the ensuing line out, Scott Stewart was an inch short of scoring the third try and a frustrating knock-on from a defensive kick frustrated another try going in on the right wing. Folkestone were controlling territory and possession for long periods in the second half, John Eustace made a break, and passed to his left with a clear line beckoning – only to find touch. Jason Baker pulled a high ball down with a superb catch but Aylesford showed their quality in being able to thwart this move, and the many other tenacious attacking moves that Folkestone were putting together.
Another exciting show of running and passing was created by the Folkestone team as they pressed for the win – Callum Palmieri, Liam Trinder, Ollie Forbes, Adam Tolman, Colby Hayward, Jon Morton and finally Josh Holt had the large crowd shouting encouragement before a mishandle stopped the attack.
Hugely against the run of play, territory and possession Aylesford took an opportunity having gained two penalties to gain a foothold in the Folkestone 5 metre zone and a fumble gave them a scrum from which they scored a well worked try under the posts, converted to take the scoreboard to an unbalanced looking 12 - 25.
But Folkestone came back strongly with fast running rugby, forcing Aylesford to retreat back into their familiar territory in their own 22 metre zone. Adam Tolman and Jon Morton went left, but Callum Palmieri brought it back to the right. A penalty gave The Stones a line out, safely caught by Colby Hayward and the ensuing maul saw Scott Stewart link up with Ollie Forbes, with six men behind him to force an outstanding try. Now 17 – 25, and a losing bonus point depending on the kick which Jon Morton, in the absence of Seyhan Fell, just saw scraping by the wrong side of the post.
Congratulations to Aylesford for winning the division and commiserations to Folkestone condemned to relegation after playing a match in which they equalled the league champions in almost every department – and which they will have been frustrated to lose.
The extended injury list and the unavailability of key players has defined this season for The Stones - coupled with the astonishing events at Bromley last November when the contrived defeat in the 13th minute of a 4-minute stoppage time - have proved to have had a lasting effect.
The final match of the season again Sheppey has been rescheduled to be played next Saturday KO. 3 p.m.
Team: Martin Murray, Adam Bloomfield, Bob Porter; David Jarvis, Colby Hayward; Ollie Forbes, Liam Trinder, Will Turner; Callum Palmieri, Adam Tolman; Josh Holt, Jon Morton (Capt.), John Eustace, Thomo Murray; Seyhan Fell.
Subs: Steve Doughty, Scott Stewart, Jason Baker.