Ashfield RUFC maintained their 100 per cent league record with a commanding 23-10 victory over second placed Rolls-Royce.
The Ashfield forwards were in dominant mood as they applied and absorbed from the first to final whistle to help their side record a ninth straight league victory.
Tries from wing Pete Alldred and prop Chris Houseman and the boot of Matt Upton, playing at fly half due to unavailable and injured players, were the Ashfield scorers.
Upton’s personal tally would reach 13 points when an opponent’s knee forced him from the field with a cut above his eye that required seven stitches helped secure four points for the home side.
Ashfield’s head coach Paul Hodson singled out two players for special mention after the game but praised the whole team for their resilient defensive play.
“Matt Upton at fly half worked tirelessly all afternoon, finding that cohesion between scrum half and inside centre and his kicking was exceptional,” he said.
“Open side flanker, Simon Downie ,was outstanding. He never gave the oppositions half-back pairing time to generate quality ball.”
Ashfield last played Rolls-Royce in a cup competition a few years ago and although the result was the same, an Ashfield victory, the winning margin was drastically reduced.
Although the Ashfield first half display, in which all their 23 points were scored, may have suggested a higher point tally by the end of the game.
Ashfield approached this game in a manner befitting their league position with a high tempo and channelled aggression in wet conditions that could have meant for a tight game but this wasn’t the case with both sides playing some excellent rugby.
Ashfield’s reward was a penalty on two minutes following indiscipline by the visitor’s forwards. Matt Upton had no hesitation in kicking for goal, one he dispatched for an early three points lead that certainly settled any nerves the Ashfield players may have had.
This was the start of a sustained attacking period for Ashfield converting pressure into territory, virtually being encamped in the Rolls-Royce 22. With Ashfield forwards, James Kirk, who was dominate at the line out, Daniel Chapman and Mathew Turnbull bombarding the Rolls-Royce try line.
The defensive line was finally broken by free scoring Chris Houseman, scoring his fifth try of the season going over from close range that finished off some decisive forward play, Matt Upton duly added the two point conversion.
From the resulting restart, it appeared that Ashfield were going to increase their lead as the pressure was applied on the Rolls-Royce defence. But befitting a side that had scored 300 points prior to this Rolls-Royce did score a try following some instinctive play by their number eight.
He picked up the ball and at the end of an excellent run, with a sublime reverse pass found the support runner who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed and it looked like game on at 10-5 midway through the first half.
Ashfield again came back strong and applied the pressure, during this sustained period, deep in the Rolls-Royce half but their defence stood firm until Upton was given two further penalty opportunities.
The penalty offences came from a combination of frustration from the defence and diligence of the referee. Upton didn’t waste any time kicking each penalty adding the six points and pushing the score to 16-5 in Ashfield’s favour, half time was fast approaching.
But Ashfield weren’t done and scored their second try on the stroke of half time. Their forwards worked a good field position through Gareth Jones and Mark Denman and when the ball was recycled wing Pete Alldread finished superbly, Upton again adding the conversion from the side line, 23-5 to Ashfield at half time.
Rolls-Royce showed why they were pushing the league leaders in the second half by attacking in wave after wave the Ashfield defence. But as steadfast as the Ashfield defence stood, Rolls-Royce penetrated the try line following some outstanding back play. Rolls-Royce missed their conversion attempt.
It is not surprising that when the team with the highest point tally are playing the team with the meanest defence, points could be hard to come by. Ashfield have conceded the fewest point in the league, 105 including today, averaging 11 points per game.
So it was possibly no surprise that as Ashfield allowed Rolls-Royce to try and press home their territory advantage, Ashfield never looked like conceding any further points. Credit must go to the players who kept their discipline during this prolonged passage of play as many teams would by now have committed numerous kickable penalties.
Ashfield could have increased their lead as first Upton, uncritically missed his easiest penalty from in front of the posts and some sloppy back play allowed scoring opportunities to be squandered.
Overall a very satisfactory performance overcoming a much improved Rolls-Royce team. With Ashfield in cup action next week away at Warwickshire side Atherstone, it is hoped that this doesn’t cause a distraction to the league campaign of the high flying Ashfield side.