Huge improvement but still no victory for Blue & Golds

Flying winger Will Bettles ran home two tries but it was not enough to hand Eastbourne their first victory of the season.

Although the result represented another disappointment for the home side, there were some promising signs to take forward into the coming matches with Park House and Crawley and supporters will hope the first win is now not far away.

Ashford took to the field with a lively set of backs who showed from the start that they were prepared to run with ball in hand and to use some outrageously long passes to stretch the Eastbourne defence.

Their cause, it has to be said, was helped greatly but some elementary errors in the Blue and Golds failure to deliver the first-up tackle in midfield which has been a feature of the season thus far.

Failure to gather the ball at restarts has not and should be quickly ironed out. And for once the testing high ball was used by Ashford to good effect and led directly to two of their tries.

Eastbourne experienced the worst possible start by conceding a try to the Ashford winger within the first five minutes of the game.

However unlike previous defeats when the heads went down so quickly, this side picked themselves up and following excellent work by Dan Mills in the loose and quick hands by Nathan Ring and Cheater in the centre, young winger Bettles sprinted clear and touched down behind the posts.

This splendid try showed what Eastbourne are capable of in attack; Ring’s conversion put Eastbourne ahead 7-5. On a day however when speed was the winner, the Ashford fly-half retaliated with a searing midfield break which left the Eastbourne defence wanting; 7-10 to the visitors

It was a critical five minute period before half time which was crucial to Ashford’s eventual success.

A mistake at half back allowed the Ashford winger to claim his second score and on the stroke of half time, the fly half also bagged his second of the day.

Within minutes 7-10 had become 7-24 and Ashford knew that the game was there for the taking.

A resurgent performance in the second half gave the crowd plenty to cheer about. Although failing to win significant line-out ball, the Eastbourne eight scrummaged effectively and drove forward throughout the second 40 minutes.

The best moment of the match came when the Eastbourne forwards and backs finally found space, evaded their markers and surged down the pitch.

When the ball reached winger Bettles, his speed had no equal and a very fine Eastbourne try was rewarded further by Nathan Ring’s conversion.

At 14-24 and with the home side now exuding confidence, the game appeared to be drifting Eastbourne’s way. But another schoolboy error with a bouncing ball was to prove decisive. What appeared to be a harmless kick upfield was left to bounce into the arms of the on-rushing No.12 who slipped a pass to his second row and he crossed unchallenged. And one final penalty in the dying seconds brought the game to a close.

So at 14-31 the pride of Eastbourne experienced another defeat. Coach Roger Stanley will be looking to build on this display in the coming weeks, correct the problems in the line-out, ensure that tackles are always made low and securely and keep heads up. With some new players joining the club and others returning from injury, they have to believe that the elusive victory is on the horizon.

Eastbourne: Imich, Mills, Webb, Turner, Tobin, Curtis, Redman, Brooks, Davis, Baldwin, Smith, Ring, Cheater, Bettles, Turner, John, Stratford, Stone. MOM: Will Bettles