Turns out not everyone in Thanet was out scavenging for toilet rolls and hand sanitizer as we managed to get a very respectable 23 players together to face Ashford at St Peter’s. There does seem to be something in the water at Ashford because again they seemed to come down with a very large pack of forwards but Thanet entered the game confident after their last two wins.
It soon became clear Ashford were going to try and play to their strengths with a forward’s dominated game and try to bulldoze their way through the Thanet defence. However, it was also evident early on that the Thanet pack had the measure of this and could deal with it quite easily with big tackles coming in on the big men from our big men. Even the backs were getting in on the action with Rasmus at scrum-half also putting in a good defensive shift. It was also abundantly clear that Thanet had the added dimension to their game of being able to ship the ball wide and through the hands quickly. As the ball passed from hand to hand gaps started to appear in the Ashford defence and it wasn’t long before the first try of the game come scored by a shearing run from Tom through the middle after two very quick rucks (1:0).
Thanet were getting into their stride already and it was clear it was going to be a long day for Ashford as they simply had no answer to the ball being moved quickly. As they continued to struggle with Jack spreading the ball both left and right it wasn’t long before a one on one arose and Noah stepped his man and used his pace down the wing to score in the corner (2:0).
A pattern was starting to form and again the similar scenario of good rucking by the forwards (2 Dillon/Dylans – 2 Charlies (B and P) and Owen) leading to another one on one scenario and this time Zach wronged footed the defence on a good angle to score under the posts (3:0).
Not to be outdone the forwards got in on the try action, this time Dillon bursting through the tackles to score (4:0). Thanet now turned defence into attack when an interception by Tom took him through the middle to score the next try (5:0). It was then back to the familiar pattern with the ball being distributed down to the wing for Noah to again stretch his long legs and sprint through to score the 6th (6:0). The rout continued with Tom stepping inside beating the defence to score (7:0) as it becomes clear the gaps in the Ashford defence were now everywhere. The final try of the half came through route one when Charlie B drove through the flailing arms of Ashford to score (8:0).
With the luxury of 21 players, Thanet were able to change their entire team with only Finn S moving from hooker to his favored position of scrum-half and Jack staying on but moving to centre.
The change led to an Ashford revival as the Thanet forwards were slightly less committed to the rucks, to begin with, and Ashford started to take advantage of this. Thanet on the back foot were struggling to get possession which they could meaningfully use and after a period of sustained pressure, Ashford scored (8:1). With their tails up they continued to press forward through their big forwards and despite some strong tackling from big Fin, Dan and Jack they scored a second try(8:2). Jack secured his first (surprisingly) bloody nose in the process. There could have been a third try for Ashford, if not for a ‘body on the line’ try-saving tackle from Eden, unfortunately, taking a bang to the head in the process. The Ashford coach put his team’s change in fortunes down to the motivating talk given them at half time not seemingly aware Thanet had pretty much changed their entire team.
Without a similar ‘motivating talk’ from the Thanet coaches, the Thanet team motivated themselves simply by realizing they had a game on. Finally, they started to play a bit themselves, the forwards started competing in the rucks and carrying the ball into contact (Ollie, Callum, Youin and Kyle) and this eventually led to a lovely break by Dan to score Thanet’s first try of the half (9:2). It now started to become a more evenly balanced competitive game with Fin W, Charlie and Laurie all having runs slowly wearing down Ashford’s spirited resistance. Sustained pressure from Thanet eventually led to Jack touching down for a nice individual try (10:3). The balance of power had now well and truly shifted back to Thanet as they sniffed victory in the second half as well as the first. It was only an amazing cover tackle by the Ashford fullback to stop Zac scoring again but he wasn’t to be denied as a little later a break from Will unleashed him to score (11:2). Befitting the total dominance of the game Thanet had the final say with Dan steaming over the line for a final try (12:2).
Great results in both halves and credit to all the boys for a job well done.