Crowborough rounded off the first half of their season with a return to winning ways, but missed out on that all important bonus point, predictably in the last minute of the match, to finish in eighth position in London League 2 SE, although the rest of the league still have one more match to play this coming Saturday.
Promoted last season, Ashford showed significant skill levels from the outset, with a large solid pack providing controlled ball, for their quick mobile backs who ran some excellent lines whilst taking the ball at speed. However their handling was to let them down, in the face of the uncompromising defensive contacts of the ‘Boro central defence, where the alert Crowborough back row were then quick to capitalise on the loose ball and set up the counter attack.
From one such counter, ‘Boro surged into the Ashford half. From a line out, Mark Bowers soared above his opposite number to secure quick possession for Matt Tyler to get his line moving. Ali Main fed Tom Nicoll who seeing a gap out wide put in a long raking kick out wide for Chris Yates, who managed to get a toe to it, and as the ball crossed the line the ever alert Sean Derrick dived on it to take the first five points. Tyler added the extra two to take the score to 7-0.
Crowborough had a chance to go further ahead from an Ashford clearance which was fielded by Harry Sansbury in his own 22, who then set off downfield, evading several tackles before being brought down some 25 metres from the Ashford try line by an illegal shoulder charge from the Ashford #15, that was to see him spend the next 10 minutes in the sin bin. Unfortunately ‘Boro could not take advantage of this positional advantage, and with Ashford in possession they enterprisingly attempted to run the ball out of defence, but a risky cut out pass was intercepted by Derrick who simply had to stroll the remaining ten metres for his second score which Tyler converted.14-0.
With half time approaching the Ashford backs proceeded to put the ‘Boro defence under sustained pressure, targeting the defenders inside shoulders as a means of opening up the gaps and overlap opportunities for their speedy wingers to exploit. Recycling the ball across the field twice, saw Ashford create a two man overlap, which the rearranged ‘Boro back three failed to shut down, allowing a well-deserved try in the corner. The kick was unsuccessful.14-5 HT
At the start of the second half centre Tom Nicoll was replaced as a precautionary measure, following a head clash at the end of the first half, replaced by Chris Dawkins in the back row, which released Derrick to take up the centre berth.
Crowborough took the score to 21-5 with a try from Andy Walters, following an initial drive by Matt Botterman who took the ball into the Ashford 22 before setting up the ruck. Winning the ruck, Main released Walters who went into contact but had the ball knocked out of his grasp. As the ball bounced backwards, Walters scooped it up again, driving through one more attempted tackle before scrambling over the line for the score that Tyler converted.
It was only a matter of time before the big Ashford pack would tire, and with the introduction of Mark Rosier and Harry Slatter, ‘Boro started to get the better of the tight encounters. In recent weeks enthusiasm has often overruled pragmatism when entering the final few minutes. This week ‘Boro played the remaining minutes deep in the Ashford half, and were even mindful of the important bonus point that a fourth try would give.
Following a strong rolling maul Ashford were forced to collapse the drive. Tyler put the ball into the corner and Slatter rose to collect the thrown in, but rather than putting the drive on, the ball went to ground, and then with the line tantalisingly close the ball was released to the backs. As the cut out pass was slung out wide, the Ashford left wing in a do or die attempt, sprinted into the gap and intercepted the pass. With the ‘Boro back three all committed to the attack it was an 85 metre sprint to the other end of the park to score under the posts. The quick attempted conversion was inexplicably missed as the final whistle went. 21-10.
Crowborough’s next outing will not be until 3rd January when London Cornish, leaders in London League Div 2 SW, visit Steel Cross for the next round of the Intermediate Cup.