Ashfield beaten in bruising county final with Southwell
John White, acting Development Squad manager and prop, said: “I am absolutely gutted by the result today, but to be part of the squad that took a team who play in a higher league right to the final whistle was an outstanding performance.
“The support we received today was overwhelming and was a tremendous boost for the squad, we can’t wait for next season to start.”
Despite Ashfield opening and finishing the scoring and totally dominating the final quarter of the game, it was the period either side of half-time determined the outcome of the game.
The agony and disappointment was there for all to see at the final whistle, etched on the Ashfield players who could not have given more.
The game started with three Paynes taking the field for Ashfield, father and captain Allan, eldest son and wing Gavin and full-back younger son Sean, which is a great testimony to the rugby pedigree of the family.
The opening few minutes were mainly scrappy, as could be expected with the prize at stake with neither side seizing the initiative.
However, it wasn’t long before the Southwell style of rugby started to show.
Their aggressive play was evident and on nine minutes an horrendous tackle that was both late and high by their No.8, left Ashfield full-back Sean Payne requiring attention from the Newark medical staff that halted the game for four minutes and resulted in Payne leaving the field of play.
The referee had awarded a penalty to Ashfield, and when he summoned the Southwell captain and No.8 following the medical treatment, a yellow card looked to be the minimum he would show the player. To the bemusement to the large crowd, no action was taken.
The Ashfield players, to their credit, started to play the free-flowing rugby they have been doing all season, feeding off the forward platform the front eight gave them. But again there was another incident involving the Southwell No.8 that would lead to two players being sin-binned.
Ashfield’s Matt Upton was ironically penalised for a dangerous tackle, resulting in a dozen players being involved in a tussle. The referee took control, issuing a yellow card to Upton, and when the Southwell No.8 sarcastically applauded his decision, he was shown a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behaviour.
It was fittingly that Allan Payne finished off a great move with a try following his quick tap penalty from 5m out.
Rob Peacock, Gavin Payne and replacement Danny Wilson all played their part, but it was the quick thinking of Alan Payne who scored the opening try. Payne dusted himself down and took the conversion, but the ball went wide of the left hand upright.
Southwell hit back following a flowing backs move that outlined the talent they had assembled, and when their fly half added the two point conversion Southwell took a lead they would not relinquish.
During the pre-match warm-up, the Southwell fly half had been stroking the ball through the posts with ease and it was no surprise that when he was given the chance to extend their lead following a penalty some 30m out, he duly obliged as the half came to a close.
Trailing 10-5, Ashfield needed to start the second half with a high tempo, and when Jake Moss broke it looked like the Southwell defence would be again unlocked. However, they stood firm and the danger was cleared with a booming clearance into touch.
Although the Ashfield team had kept the deficit to a minimum, due largely to some great defensive work by Jamie Stevenson, Chris Warnes, Charlie Allsop and Gary Jefferies, Ashfield found themselves further behind when a penalty was awarded and converted into another three points to Southwell giving an eight-point lead to the Minster Men.
A lapse in concentration by the Ashfield backs then allowed Southwell to score a converted try on 54 minutes, and to compound the 15-point lead they now held, Danny Wilson was shown a yellow card for a punch on the Southwell No.8, a punch the referee did not see but the touch-judge did.
With a man down, and Ashfield trying to run the ball out of their 22, a pass was intercepted by the Southwell scrum half who ran in unopposed under the posts. With the conversion a formality, Southwell held a 12-point lead.
There was still time for Ashfield to pull the game around and they embarked a passage of play that saw them encamped in the Southwell half for 18 minutes and score two tries, being led by Ross Bowskill and Kip Herring.
First Jake Moss, who had looked the most likely Ashfield back to break the gain line time and again, seized on a ball with the referee playing an advantage and crossed the try line. The conversion was missed but the deficit had reduced to 27-10.
Although it was all Ashfield at this point, it took them a further 15 minutes to add their third and final try of the afternoon when Matt Turnbull crossed the try line from close range, the conversion was missed and the game ended in defeat.
The enormous pressure Southwell endured in the latter stages of this game did underline their desire to win this contest.
But it was Ashfield who could hold their heads high at the final whistle, finishing on the front foot but upon reflection having left themselves too much to do with time ebbing away.