Relieved Ashfield RUFC stop the rot with smash-and-grab raid

WELCOME RETURN -- a typical run by Jake Manning, who had a big influence on his comeback from injury.
WELCOME RETURN -- a typical run by Jake Manning, who had a big influence on his comeback from injury.

A smash-and-grab raid at Boston earned relieved Ashfield a much-needed victory to stop the rot of four consecutive defeats.

An impressive rearguard action, topped by a late try from Rob Kirk, earned a 15-12 away win in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League that left director rugby Mark Denman ecstatic.

“After four defeats, including the last two without scoring a point, it felt great to be back to winning ways,” said Denman. “We absorbed a lot of pressure and didn’t waste our scoring opportunities when they arrived.

“Our constantly changing team, week on week, doesn’t help the continuity, but the 17 who travelled to Boston played their hearts out. I don’t single players out too often, but Michael Elliott at fly-half and Tyler Morgan at outside-centre tackled everything.”

The vital win cemented Ashfield’s mid-table position, only three points behind fourth-placed Chesterfield Panthers, whom they welcome to Larwood Park for what is sure to be a spicy local derby in front of a large crowd this Saturday (2.15 pm)

The trip to third-from-bottom Boston forced the selection team into ringing the changes, although the return of Jake Manning after injury had a huge influence on the side.

The Lincolnshire venue had been a difficult ground for Ashfield on their previous visits and when the home side scored the opening unconverted try, against the run of play, the omens didn’t look good. But Curtis Green had other ideas and, after good work by Manning, he raced in to score the first of his two unconverted ties midway through the half, close to the corner.

The score only served to ignite Boston, who put phase after phase together, and although the Ashfield defensive line held tight, the thin red line was penetrated again as the first half drew to a close and a converted try left the home side seven points up.

The fightback was led by scrum-half Matt Upton, who was at the heart of the action throughout with his trademark gain-line breaking runs, box-kicking and tenacious tackling, although the entire pack’s tackling was furious at times.

As the rearguard action continued in a biting East-coast wind that made handling difficult, Boston enjoyed most possession. But it was Ashfield who capitalised on the few scoring opportunities when Green and then Kirk scored unconverted tries to secure the victory.