By Colin Whiteley
Ashford RFC 13 – 3 Thanet Wanderers RUFC
This was one of only two matches to go ahead in the Kent Counties leagues on September 3, the remaining ten were all postponed.
Hard pitches have made it difficult for teams to prepare their teams, or their pitches, to be ready in time for the league kick off. However, both teams had agreed that this fixture should proceed with an eye to the busy schedule of league fixtures ahead and fortunately no serious injuries occurred.
Wanderers kicked off with the breeze but it was the hosts Ashford who were soon threatening the Thanet line after three penalties were conceded in a four minute spell.
The immediate danger was cleared after sound Wanderers’ defending but a line out knock-on halted Thanet’s momentum. A good penalty clearance from full back Sam Rolfe took Wanderers to near halfway and on 18 minutes the same player was on target with a well struck penalty from in front on the home ten metres line. Wanderers led 3 nil.
Ashford returned to the Thanet half and it was no surprise when their pack drove over as they attacked wide right. The conversion attempt was wide but the hosts had the lead, 5-3. With 30 minutes played Rolfe’s penalty attempt, from half way, rebounded from the home cross bar and was scrambled away. An error strewn 10 minutes brought half time close. Wanderers’ series of pick and goes took them close but the drive for the line was brought down and Thanet were penalised for not releasing.
Despite Ashford having the best of the first half, the lead was just two points and there was everything to play for in the second half. Lenny Brown replaced Connor Brown in the second row as the second period got underway.
An early penalty attempt from halfway for the hosts sailed right of the posts. A good tackle brought down Marius Thompson in full flight and the ball went loose. A penalty attempt was wide for Thanet before Louis Marshal broke strongly before being halted 15 metres out. Noah Dann had made his first XV debut at open-side and now retired after a shift distinguished by his good work at the breakdown.
Connor Brown returned to replace him. Michael Morris showed well when he came on in the front row minutes later for his second first team outing. The youthful referee had a good match and was quick to punish any dissent and both sides’ indiscipline was rightly punished. A comment on a decision cost Thanet three points as the penalty was advanced ten metres, the home kicker slotted the kick and Wanderers were behind 8-3.
Lenny Brown was shown yellow for not rolling. With ten minutes remaining, Ashford’s pack secured a second try that went unconverted so Thanet needed two scores in the remaining ten minutes. Their last gasp attacks failed to break through and in the closing minutes Wanderers were once more punished for dissent that advanced their opponents ten metres.
Ashford thoroughly deserved their win by 13-3 and top the league. It was a very rusty performance in what was perhaps a match too soon for the Thanet side. Their costly indiscipline was not acceptable to the Wanderers coaching team and will be addressed.
Wanderers Squad: James Green, Neil Wakefield, Gully Goodall, Jack Startin, Connor Brown, Warren Riddell-Bloomfield, Noah Dann, James Hamilton, Tom Walton, Marius Thompson, Louis Marshall, Nick Herbert, James Crompton, Harrison Leach, Sam Rolfe. SUBS: Michael Morris, Lenny Brown, Cameron Beck.
Some rain is forecast for the coming week but whether it will be enough to make Thanet’s St Peters pitch playable for the Cranbrook fixture must be very doubtful. The club’s website and social media sites will bring the updates.