Ashfield RUFC extended their unbeaten run to eight games with a hard-fought 26-5 victory over Nottinghamians at The National Water Sports Centre, Holme Pierrepont.
But poor discipline threatened to cost them dearly on the day at times. The Ashfield kick off from Billy North was text book, the right height and distance to enable his forwards to instantly seize the initiative.
A catch and drive by Dan Chapman quickly brought into play the entire pack, with the ball recycled first by Chris Housman and then by Gareth Jones, and Ashfield were deep into their opposition’s half.
The ball was dislodged in the tackle and was fly-hacked into touch by the Amians’ defence.
The resulting line out to Ashfield saw Mark Denman, jumping at two, regaining the ball, a passage of play that would be replicated throughout the afternoon to set up a ruck.
Orchestrated by scrum half Matt Upton, making his return to the first team, he unleashed the backs.
Tom Childs hit the line at pace from his full back position and broke the game line. A high tackle ended his forward momentum, but he managed to offload the ball whilst taking the hit to set Gareth Purnell on a arcing run towards the try line.
Wing Brent Leivers, who was a thorn in the Amians’ defence all afternoon, proved to be the decoy that allowed Purnell to run unopposed and score under the posts for an early try on four minutes, Purnell converting his own try to put the visitors seven points ahead. The lead looked set to be increased when Dan Chapman found himself with ball in hand and Brent Leivers again in support.
Instead of playing in Leivers, Chapman was caught in two minds and his hesitation allowed the Amians’ defence to smoother the Ashfield attack.
A missed penalty by Amian’s only served to galvanise Ashfield with the impressive Purnell, from centre field, setting up a great passage of play that led to a further try.
His strong running set up a ruck, and with the ball being moved quickly through the backs, Jake Manning put in Billy North from 5m to increase the lead to 12 points.
Ashfield were now well on top of this encounter and should have converted this superiority into more tries but sloppy defending allowed Amians to score a well-worked try with the final play of the half.
After the break Amians’ confidence had grown to such an extent that they seemed to have played themselves back into the game, but the steel that the Ashfield team now had ensured no further points would be conceded.
The forwards again set the platform for another flowing move that this time saw Pete Alldread at pace break the Amians’ line for Chris Ashton to score under the posts, Purnell missing the conversion.
Ashfield were now back in control, but on 65 minutes the game again changed with an incident that could have dramatically affected the outcome of this encounter.
Matt Upton was rightly shown a yellow card for punching, but when captain Gareth Jones asked the referee why he had shown the yellow card, Jones was himself ordered to leave the field of play.
With the visitors now down to 13, the referee looked to have played the home team in, but the impressive Jake Manning had other ideas.
Now playing at scrum half, he picked the ball up at the back of a scrum drew two defenders and threw a delightful pass to Brent Leivers. Leivers left the Amians’ defence in his wake to score in the corner - a try that was fitting reward for his afternoon’s endeavours.
From tight on the touchline, Gareth Purnell slotted the ball majestically through the posts for the final score on what was a good and gritty performance by the Ashfield team.
l Ashfield Development Squad put in a good performance to beat Mellish seconds 19-12.
Never behind, Ashfield raced into an early seven-point lead through a try by Kip Hearing, converted by Chris Allen.
A further try by Tyler Morgan and a Mellish converted try made the score 12-7 to Ashfield.
The second half was fiercely contested, and when Chris Warnes scored Ashfield third try, converted by Tim Gibbons, the game looked secure.
A late try by Mellish made this more of a contest, but Ashfield held firm for a victory.
l Ashfield U15 girls welcomed Sleaford to Polly Bowls for their league game and continued where they left off last week with a 49-7 win.
Straight from the kick-off the girls put Sleaford under immense pressure with strong running rugby from the whole team. Within minutes the pressure told when prop Holly Felton went over for the first of two tries.
She was followed by tries for Megan Warsop (5) and one each for Brianny Leivers and Paige Baker, Mariah Bartley converting two of them.
This was a real team performance with strong runs great support and some ferocious tackling.
l A three-way encounter at Mansfield Rugby Club saw Ashfield U12 boys come up against strong opposition from the home team and Derby.
With four games played, one drawn and three lost, Ashfield looked dejected at the end but their fighting spirit showed through as they never stopped competing.