Ashford(CL) - 23rd September 2023

Updated by: Admin - 07/10/2023

Ashford finish strongly in win at improving Cranbrook.


In a compelling game of fine margins on a perfect autumn afternoon Cranbrook were disappointed to lose when mid-way through the second half they had the chance to add to their lead as an Ashford player was carded. Despite the numerical advantage it was Ashford who were next to score and played their best rugby in the last part of the game to deservedly win.

The game took a little while to settle down as the teams battled for supremacy. Ashford took the lead with an early penalty when Cranbrook were penalised for not releasing but equalised after 8 minutes when after a promising Cranbrook attack Ashford went offside and Luke Beaumont obliged. 

From the kick off Ashford were back on the attack when the influential Jack Lamb went down with a head injury which soon needed his substitution, David Lock coming on for him. Callum Golds was carded for not rolling away at a ruck and Ashford forwards scored from close range. When Cranbrook new 2nd row Toby Freeman charged down a clearance from inside the 22, Cranbrook  looked to have a scoring opportunity but despite good ball retention and several phases were not able to capitalise.

Ashford had the better of the next few minutes as Cranbrook had to reorganise, edging the scrums, and giving the backs more ball, coming close to a score in the right corner after a kick through, and forcing Fabian Rimmer into a hurried but successful clearance. He was to have a fine game managing to find space when kicking as well as effective work in defence and attack and deservedly took the Biddenden Vineyard sponsored player of the match.

After 35 minutes Cranbrook were back on the attack when coming close going right, the ball was lost into touch with an over ambitious pass. Cranbrook did however manage to overturn the lineout and nice handling going left gave wing Anthony Andrews just enough space to squeeze over in the corner. Then Ashford were penalised for not pushing straight at the scrum, Rimmer returned the ball to 5 metres with a fine kick and Josh Pankhurst scored when breaking off from the well-controlled lineout drive making the halftime score 13-8.

Cranbrook had to reorganise further when flyhalf Phil Catt had to retire at the interval, George Robertson coming on for him had to play out of position at centre. Cranbrook had some pressure as Ashford were reduced to 14 by a card, but aided by a crucial turnover they escaped as a penalty put them on the attack and against the odds, they were next to score as good ball retention provided the opportunity.

This understandably boosted the visitors  although Cranbrook retook the lead as Ashford were penalised for a high tackle. Rimmer again found touch in the right corner and Pankhurst again scored from lineout and drive, Beaumont converting. Ashford though were playing with determination and accuracy forsaking their kicking game as Ollie Addis, playing out of position, was secure at fullback. They soon equalised after breaking tackles. Crucially Freeman, who had a fine game, was carded for another tackle deemed high under the new ruling, and Cranbrook conceded as more fluent play for the visitors produced a try under the posts for the lead.

Ashford had the better of the last part of the game and missed 3 reasonably kickable penalties to put the game beyond the reach of Cranbrook. Only once did Cranbrook threaten when a knock on in an attacking position spoiled the promising advance. From the scrum a ruck formed where No 8 Josh Forknall was penalised for joining at the side. Unfortunately, his elbow appeared to make contact with the head of an Ashford forward and under the jeopardy of modern protocols he was dismissed although there was no intent. I particularly enjoyed the ability of the referee Mr David Harris to clearly indicate his decisions both verbally and by signal, he kept good control of a sometimes feisty match. 

Ashford comfortably saw out the remainder of the game to deservedly win, but in many ways some of the younger Cranbrook players came of age aided and abetted by those more experienced to please coach Chris Catt who felt the game plan is slowly taking shape. 

Next Saturday the team travel to Canterbury to visit their recently promoted 2nd team who have so far won both their games narrowly.


The Cranbrook team:

1 T Humphreys, 2 J Pankhurst, 3 J Bushell, 4 J Lamb, 5 T Freeman, 6 C Golds, 7 H Gillanders-Captain, 8 J Forknall, 9 K Bottle, 10 P Catt, 11 A Andrews, 12 F Rimmer, 13 L Beaumont, 14 W Sellick, 15 O Addis.

Subs D Lock for Lamb 25min, G Robertson for Catt at H/T, D Houghton-Judge for Bushell 70min.


Match report by Philip Rimmer


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