Gannets slowly work through the gears to secure late win against NAG
Hectic beginning sees visitors take the lead before home side fight their way back into contention
A week of more last minute delays and withdrawals saw the Gannets gather 15 players by 14:59, just in time for the 3 o'clock kick off. Two further arrivals once the game was underway provided the bench given the late arrival of Stephen Wootton and Dan Grant.
The starting line up saw first Gannets matches for Joe Cross on the wing and James at flanker. The remainder of the side was more familiar albeit with Ash starting at hooker supported by Ringo and Craig in the front row. Rich Mayhew and Jamie formed the second row with Sam and Mike Percival completing the back row. Gareth and Ben Baker formed the half backs and Paddy was relocated to the centre alongside the forever later arriving James Kurszewski. Paolo and Perri began the game at wing and fullback respectively.
From the off the Gannets lacked the control and concentration which underlines their best performances with hasty play gifting possession back to the visitors who soon secured the game's first try. Territory for the home side from good carries from Paddy and the forwards saw the award of a penalty which Perri converted to get the first points on the board for the Gannets. A well worked move off of the back of a scrum, which was strong all afternoon, saw Paddy set up Paolo for a try in the corner.
That was as good as the first half got for the home side with numerous chances squandered. New Ash Green were more clinical scoring a second try and following that up with a third directly from kick off passing through a number of missed tackles. At half time the score was 19-8 and the visitors and their supporters were celebrating and laughing at the ease with which they were able to score.
Turning around for the second half the Gannets were attacking up the higher of two hills with work to do. An early try hinted at an initial comeback before New Ash Green secured another converted try and a penalty to stretch their lead to 14 points.
With 15 minutes remaining the score was 29-15 and the Gannets had a penalty on the opposition 22. Turning down the option of 3 points the Gannets resolved to take the game to their opposition. After finally organising themselves to work through a number of phases the Gannets secured another score through Mike Percival which was converted by Perri to bring the gap back down to 7. A break from Perri shortly after saw him tackled 5 metres short of the opposition line. Good support at the ruck from Jetski left Ben Baker with a one on one and he just about made it to the tryline for the fourth try. The pressure conversion from Perri tied the scores with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Gannets were energised by their upturn in performance and Jamie Feighery re-entered the game for the final stint. A strong carry from Jamie took the game back into the opposition 22 before more good phase work from the forwards bought the line into site and Gravesend scored the final try of the game, which was again converted by Perri. With two minutes on the clock the Gannets had a line out where they set up a catch and drive and made 30 metres up the field while running down the clock. Unfortunately that was not to be the final act of the game as they conceded a penalty from the breakdown of the maul giving New Ash Green the chance to kick for the corner and rescue the game.
The final lineout was scrappy and Gravesend managed to get up and steal the ball but did not secure it easily against frantic efforts from the New Ash Green pack. Eventually the ball was worked off of the park to secure a hard fought victory.
The celebrations at the final whistle and the number of aching bodies was testament to the efforts put into the match by both sides today. Any spectators were treated to a high quality game of rugby and New Ash Green will surely look to build on their performance in the coming weeks too.
Gravesend turn their attentions to a trip across Kent to play Tunbridge Wells next week which promises to be another tough afternoon. Hopefully the phase play and support that typified the final 15 minutes of this match can be brought to bear on the full 80 minutes there.**I've been informed the match may actually be at Gravesend next week, I'll check the details this week (BB)**
The final comment has to however be a congratulations to the Gannets for the way they fought their way back into this match to secure the victory against a side that has been a thorn in their side over the last few seasons!