Ports were resolute but outgunned by strong Ashford side

Ashford Barbarians 28
St Leonards Cinque Ports 14
(HT 7-7)

After their opening friendly with Hellingly was cancelled, Ports travelled to Kent with an extra layer of rust to shake off.

The opposition had already played a couple of friendlies, and this showed in the opening exchanges.

Ashford carried well and it took strong tackles from Kim Wan, Josh Storey and skipper for the day George Upton to drive the hosts back.

Early ill-discipline forced Ports onto the back foot though and from a well worked line out the Barbarians ran over for an opening score.

Ports struggled for territory and possession, Ashford came close on a number of occasions. Will Steele forced his opposite number into touch, and a ball was spilt under pressure from Chris Perry.

Luke in space
Luke Loving Price on an attacking run.

Ports made rare forays into Ashford territory, Luke Barningham made a stretching interception and made 70 yards before his looping pass inside was scooped up by the opposition. Luke Loving-Price and Mike Hutchins made darting runs but the majority of work was defensive.

Upton, Storey and Colin Whyte all made sure they got into the opposition faces. Upton was disruptive at the ruck too.

Despite hammering at the door the defence stood strong. Upton made a brave counter attack and his probing kick was deflected back into his hands, he broke away and fed the support running Steele. Steele was swallowed up but he fed Upton who dived over in the corner.

Barningham provided a conversion from the touchline. With the game seemingly swinging towards Ports the hosts started the second half having made a number of changes.

Ports initially looked the more likely team to score, Hutchins was denied by a foot in touch and Upton made a number of strong runs before a period of poor concentration saw Ashford run in three tries.

There may have been more but Hutchins made a key stop, and Upton was at his destructive best smashing a runner into touch. Mark Wright also provided greater territory with his accurate line out throwing but the game was slipping away from Ports before Henry Hill unlocked the backs.

Rob Mayer made a stabbing kick, and Steele showed a predators instincts to dive on a loose ball. Barningham was again accurate. Despite this Ports couldn’t narrow the gap and the whistle blew for a home win.

Coach Paul Smart captured the Ports reaction: “.. A decent performance against strong opposition. They were well organised and had the majority of the game. Our stoic defence led by skipper George Upton held them to only a two try win”.

Despite the pre-season rust a number of players demonstrated their ability, Upton looked dynamic in his last game before university, Wright was strong at the set-piece and Storey was rugged in defence and at the breakdown. The stand out performance though, and winner of E-Heat man of the match was Will Steele. The Scottish winger was solid in defence, and created one try with support running and finished the other with aplomb.

Squad: 15 Hill 14 Barningham 13 Hutchins 12 Loving-Price 11 Steele 10 Smart 9 Hall (Mayer) 1 Whyte 2 Wright 3 Monks (Thomas) 4 Storey 5 Wan 6 Perry 7 Upton 8 Mayer (Barrowclough)

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