Ashford’s ambitions dealt a hefty blow
ASHFORD’S hopes of building on their promising start to their season in Kent League 1 came undone at Old Gravesendians.
The team was boosted by the return of Karl Harding, back from New Zealand to start his third season at the club but in the event, Ashford were stopped from playing the expansive game that had proved so effective in previous games.
Ashford started the match going down the very marked slope at their opponents’ ground, yet even this proved to be a disadvantage.
It took them too long to adapt to the slope and a strong crosswind, with a number of kicks going straight into touch.
As the match progressed, Ashford were painfully reminded that Old Gs are masters of exploiting the special nature of their pitch.
A penalty attempt by fly-half J.J. Murray was pushed just wide by the strong crosswind and early pressure was more than countered by Old Gs when their inside centre, Ricky Harding, scored two tries within five minutes, though the second would appear to have been helped by a forward pass that was not picked up by the referee.
These two tries put Ashford on the back foot and Gravesendians prevented the ball being spun out to Ashord’s backs, who had shown how dangerous they could be in previous games.
The home team’s forwards played a tight, aggressive game and were rewarded with a third, push-over try by second row forward Alex Cave on 30 minutes.
On the stroke of half-time, however, Ashford edged their way back into contention when, after a penalty, a short but strong and direct run by Tommy Murray produced their first points. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving them trailing 17-5 at half-time.
The second half proved, quite literally, an uphill struggle for Ashford.
OGs’ experience in playing the slope soon showed as they bombarded the Ashford corners with kicks.
Camping in their opponents’ half, Old Gs, whose pack was becoming increasingly dominant, scored two more tries within 20 minutes of the restart.
Thirty minutes into the second half Ashford scored their second when Grant Burdon crossed the try line in his first appearance for the first team.
Another high and long Old Gs’ kick was fielded by wing Duncan Mckay, who jinked and broke the first line of defence before offloading to Harding, who drew in two more defenders before setting up Burden for a debut try that was converted by JJ Murray.
Gravesendians then began a late but sustained assault on the Ashford line and even a great covering tackle by Trevor Marama proved in vain as an off-load enabled their full-back Marcus D’Cunha to go in for a score.
They thought they had secured another try in the last play of the game but when the ball had already been taken over the try line, a brilliant tackle by Pete Walsh on centre Harding prevented him from grounding the ball and securing his hattrick.
Strong and aggressive tackling saw Danny Bushell named Ashford’s man of the match.
Ashford host Sittingbourne in the league on Saturday.