The Unbearable Lightness of Being...in Ashford
By Alex Ruddock
Although Folkestone started on the front foot, for the first twenty minutes the game was extremely even, with the majority of the game being played in the middle third of the pitch.
Ashford 3rds 17 Folkestone 3rds 19by Rob Jackson
Ashford won the toss and elected to receive the kick off. Although Folkestone started on the front foot, for the first twenty minutes the game was extremely even, with the majority of the game being played in the middle third of the pitch. The strong ball carrying of Jack Baker, Alan Bacon, Ricky Wincote and Glenn Amos was causing Ashford problems around the fringes and Folkestone were able to get close to the line on several occasions. Despite being strong in the loose play, Folkestone were getting outmuscled on the scrum by a larger Ashford pack, and poor breakdown work meant 'Stones were being turned over with alarming regularity. Eventually Ashford were able to move up the pitch and suddenly Folkestone were putting the ball into a scrum 5 metres out from their own try line. Despite the scrum being under intense pressure, the ball was carried out by Ricky Wincote, and then taken on by several other forwards. Connor Loome launched an excellent box kick which he chased down and pressured the Ashford winger into dropping the ball. Loome then fly-hacked the ball up the pitch allowing Ross Clark to outpace the covering defence nudge the ball over the try line and touch it down. Conversion was missed, 5-0.
Following this score, Folkestone were able to work up a better rhythm to their play, with Rob Gardner causing the Ashford inside backs serious concerns and Kev Gurr beginning to dominate the line out. After some quick ball, Gardner spotted a mismatch in the defensive line and raced though a gap to put the ball down under the posts. Conversion was made, 12-0.
Ashford kicked off and quickly moved into Folkestone half, putting several phases of play together and seriously testing the defence. Although not perfect the defence was holding out until the referee, possibly unsighted, missed several infringements and Ashford were able to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try. 12-5.
Folkestone quickly looked to re-impose themselves in the game, with pressure being applied down the left hand side. Following some pretty aimless kicking from both teams, Ceri Ap-Bryn was able to run the ball back, evading several tackles, before touching down left of the posts. Unleashing his inner-Halfpenny, he converted his own try 19-5.
Half time came soon afterwards, where Folkestone vowed to improve the defence, the scrum and the contact area. These things, largely, did not happen as the second half was dominated by Ashford. They scored two early tries (both involving unseen knock-ons in the build up). For the remainder of the game, Ashford attacked the Folkestone line but the defence was committed and aggressive, especially from the back row with Amos and Wincote putting in several big hits, frequently dislodging the ball so possession could be regained. Folkestone rode their luck at times, helped by the pack achieving parity in the scrum, and often looked dangerous on the counter-attack but lacked the composure to finish off the chances. A particularly significant moment was when Connor Loome launched a kick down field, following a ruck turnover, which bounced and bobbled 50 yards down the field until it rolled into touch 5 metres from the Ashford try line.
Going into the last five minutes, Ashford were stretching the 'Stone defence, however the team were fully committed with several overlaps being thwarted and finally an interception breakout by Dan Barker allowed Folkestone to close the game out in the Ashford 22.
A great result, in an extremely tough match. While lots of mistakes were made, the attitude, commitment, fortitude and effort of all eighteen chaps involved cannot be faulted.
Team: 15. Ceri Ap-Bryn; 14. Ross Clark, 13. Jamie Curtis, 12. Paul Bartlett, 11. Danny Laing; 10. Rob Gardner, 9. Connor Loome; 8. Glenn Amos, 7. Ricky Wincote, 6. Jack Baker; 5. Rob Jackson (Capt,), 4. Kev Gurr; 3. Nobby Clarke, 2. Alan Bacon, 1. Gareth Webber.
Subs: Dan Barker, Chris Donovan-Bayley and Simon Himbury
Man of the match: Glenn Amos – great ball carrying and defence, especially in a pack under pressure.
• Ricky Wincote: Bosh and boom!
• Connor Loome: great performance from the young lad in a unfamiliar position
• The tight five: tough day the office in the scrum and breakdown but stuck at it, eventually getting the upper hand.
• Rob Gardner: gave several Ashford players twisted blood.