Crushed Ashfield '˜shown no mercy' in match to forget

Coach Gareth Jones accepted his team were ruthlessly dismantled as Ashfield's worrying slump in form continued with a crushing defeat against title-chasing Kesteven.

ON THE CHARGE -- Chris Houseman tries to get Ashfield RUFC going.
ON THE CHARGE -- Chris Houseman tries to get Ashfield RUFC going.

Lacking belief and confidence, Ashfield plunged to a 78-7 reverse in a game to forget against a Lincolnshire outfit sitting top of the Midlands 3 East (North) Division table.

And as his side slipped to eighth in the 12-team table, level on points with three other teams, coach Jones was unable to disguise his disappointment.

“We were second best against a team that showed no mercy,” he said. “We couldn’t cope with their midfield runners who ran lines that had support either side of the ball-carrier, ready for the offload.

“Their back row didn’t allow our backs any time or quality ball all afternoon. This created pressure that we didn’t, and couldn’t, handle. Our lack of coheison didn’t help, but no excuses.”

Kesteven, who have now won 16 of their 19 league matches, losing only two, were in devastating form, running in 12 tries that ripped the heart out of the young Ashfield side.

From the kick-off, the visitors signalled their intent, gathering the ball and racing deep into Ashfield’s 22. Good work by Michael Elliott and Andy Bennett smuggled the ball to safety on this occasion, but there was little let-up for the hosts as the Kesteven try-avalanche commenced with an unconverted effort in the eighth minute.

After they added two further tries, the rampant away team were quickly 19 points ahead, and Ashfield could have been forgiven for capitulating altogether as they began to look totally disjointed.

Thankfully, the vision of Billy North, who gave an outstanding performance throughout the game, provided something to cheer. Some 18 metres from the try line, after a scrum and seeing a flat defence, North embarked on a run to score a try under the posts. The two-point conversion, which was scored by Gareth Purnell, even reduced the deficit to 12 points.

However, just when they hoped the game might swing in their favour, Ashfield conceded two more first-half tries to leave them with an impossible mountain to climb.

Kesteven piled on the pressure in the second half, piling up seven more tries to give them 45 unanswered points. It all added up to the heaviest defeat the Ashfield club has had to endure for many seasons.

Not even promising wing Tom Hardick could stem the tide. A starting debut was given to Hardwick after his five-try haul of the previous week, but he had little opportunity to reproduce his scoring feat and was starved of ball throughout.

Shellshocked Ashfield now need to pick themselves up, and the forthcoming Easter weekend will be a welcome break for the players and coaches as they start to prepare for the trip to Lincoln the following weekend. This looks another difficult fixture because Lincoln sit third in the table, albeit 16 points behind Kesteven. And it doesn’t get any easier for Jones’s troops because after Lincoln, Ashfield have a home match against Loughborough on Saturday, April 9. The Leicestershire team are second in the table, and the only threat in the title race to Kesteven after 17 wins in 19 matches.

Seven days later, Ashfield should enjoy some respite when they make the short journey to take on bottom-of-the-table Nottingham Moderns.

OTHER MIDLANDS 3 EAST (NORTH) DIVISION RESULTS LAST SATURDAY -- Ashby 19 Lincoln 39, Aylestone St James 59 Grimsby 5, Belper 20 Chesterfield Panthers 17, Nottingham Moderns 7 Loughborough 37, Sleaford 33 Boston 15.