Ash­ford’s am­bi­tions dealt a hefty blow

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Classified -

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.

Danger­ous

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.

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