Understrength Ashfield RUFC extended their unbeaten run to six games as they pipped East Retford 30-24.
In the early exchanges, the enforced changes looked to have played into East Retford’s hands, aided again by unforced errors by the Ashfield defence.
The errors by Ashfield soon became offences that the referee could no longer ignore as the penalty count started to mount and East Retford took an early three point lead on eight minutes.
Ashfield had few opportunities early in the game, being unable to generate a good platform, and the Ashfield attack was reliant on breakaways by Jake Manning, Ryan Gwillim and Rob Kirk.
With East Retford’s confidence building another penalty was awarded against Ashfield, but the kick was missed.
But East Retford could not be contained and, from half way, their outside centre left the Ashfield defence flat-footed and for once lacking in pace.
The following conversion sailed through the posts giving the home side a seven point lead on 24 minutes. But in a game of twists and turns, East Redford were penalised for killing the ball and a yellow card was shown to the perpetrator.
Not for the first time this season, Gareth Purnell scored the three point penalty to cut the gap.
Another penalty conceded by Ashfield gave East Retford a chance to extend their lead.
With a quick tap this opportunist chance was taken and over the try line East Retford went for their second try. The conversion was missed to put then 12-3 ahead.
East Retford then gave Ashfield a lifeline when they had a man sent off. Purnell duly obliged with his second penalty of the day, reducing their lead to six points.
But on 47 minutes Ashfield, through some inept defending, allowed East Retford to further extend their lead with an unconverted try,
Ashfield, to their credit, always get stronger as games progress and this would be no exception as they began to enjoy a period of the game that would be rewarded by three tries.
The first of which being scored by Josh Heald following a quick tap penalty that was converted by Gareth Purnell to cut East Retford’s lead by four.
Ashfield’s second try came from a kick and chase by Gareth Purnell. The East Retford player was adjudged to have carried the ball over the deadball line, leading to an Ashfield scrum.
This gave Ashfield a chance to go in front for the first time, a chance they would not pass up.
With the ball at the feet of number 8 Gareth Jones, he picked up the ball and drove forward, with Tyler Morgan on his shoulder he drew the tackle and offloaded to Morgan to go over.
Gareth Purnell added the conversion to move Ashfield into a 20-17 lead.
With their tails up, Ashfield increased their lead after a great break in centre field by Jake Manning.
Breaking two tackles he found his centre partner, Jono Richardson.
Richardson, with ball in hand, was unstoppable, running from 25m out to score.
Purnell uncharacteristically missed the conversion, but Ashfield were now eight points clear.
The game then turned again when Ashfield, with hands in the ruck were penalised. From the resulting penalty East Retford moved forward and scored a converted try to move one point behind Ashfield.
Ashfield now applied the pressure to close the game out with their forwards, Chris Houseman, Josh Heald and Dan Chapman, driving deep into the heart of the East Retford defence.
Ashfield then extended their lead when Jake Manning set off on a 30m run to go over the line and wrap up the points.