A poor second half of the season for Ashfield RUFC was summed up by their last match when they slid to a surprise defeat against relegated but rejuvenated Nottingham Moderns.
Ashfield can safely say that they have achieved their main objective for the season, which was to maintain their status in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League.
But this was mainly due to strong performances in their first 11 games, including a fine run when they were unbeaten in seven.
It has been a very different story in the last 11 league games, which have yielded only one victory. Injuries and player unavailability have played their part in frustrating the team selectors, and the 20-8 loss away to bottom-of-the-table Moderns put the tin-lid on Ashfield’s slide.
A lacklustre performance resulted in a reverse that sees them finish eighth in the 12-team division, while Moderns celebrated only their fourth win of the season.
Ashfield coach Gareth Jones commented: “We never got into the game. We made too many mistakes, missed too many tackles and created very little.
“On this performance, it’s difficult to see how Moderns are the bottom side, irrespective of how we played. However, it was disappointing to lose in such a manner. The defeat reflects out current form, which hasn’t been good enough this calendar year.”
The injury woes that have afflicted Jones’s side continued even before a ball had been kicked in anger because Chris Houseman was forced out of the starting 15 with a rib injury. Houseman was a major loss because his on-field decision-making and tireless ball-carrying are crucial to the team.
Moderns gained the upper hand with two early, unconverted tries, the first of which stemmed from an Ashfield blunder at a lineout. Although the visitors reduced the deficit to five points with a Rob Kirk try, further scoring opportunities were limited.
Before the break, the hosts strengthened their grip by adding another try and while Billy North kicked a 35-metre penalty to give Ashfield hope, they never threatened to save the game in an uneventful second period.
Little seemed to work for them, and confidence ebbed away as more errors crept into their game. With Moderns adding a further late try, the match stumbled to its conclusion, leaving Ashfield desperate for improvement in their forthcoming county cup semi-final against Southwell.