Agonising Vase semi-final defeat for plucky Ashfield

SHOWSTOPPERS -- Ashfield's Andy Bennett (left) combines with teammate Chris Houseman to stop another East Retford attack during the NLD Vase semi-final,
SHOWSTOPPERS -- Ashfield's Andy Bennett (left) combines with teammate Chris Houseman to stop another East Retford attack during the NLD Vase semi-final,

A tally of four tries was not enough to prevent battling Ashfield going down to a narrow defeat in their big semi-final.

Ashfield took on East Retford with a place in the final of the Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire (NLD) Vase at stake. But even though Michael Elliott, Curtis Green, Tyler Morgan and Billy North all touched down, they fell by an agonising three-point margin, 27-24.

In a tie of pace and power, the visitors weren’t helped by having to field a reshuffled side. But East Retford just edged them with some clinical attacking play, determined tackling and accurate kicking.

In a typically slow start, Ashfield fell behind to a penalty and converted try within the first ten minutes. And although Gareth Purnell had an opportunity to reduce the arrears, his penalty just missed to spark a day of mixed fortunes from the kicking-tee, with difficult kicking angles plaguing him throughout.

The vision of Billy North at fly-half engineered Ashfield’s first try when he chipped a delightful ball over the defence that was gratefully gathered

by Michael Elliott to score.

But with just a five-point gap between the teams, it was a defensive error that handed East Retford a 13-5 advantage at the interval as a penalty was

conceded and the home flanker coolly slotted the ball between the uprights.

Ashfield started the second half with a bang, scoring two quick tries through Green and Morgan, with the latter converted by Purnell to give them a slender lead. But instead of applying basic rugby principles, securing the ball and playing a tight game, they threw away the initiative and allowed East Retford to exploite the visitors’ right flank with two converted tries of their own.

Having clawed themselves back into the game, it was a devastating blow to see it ripped from their grasp. But Ashfield never gave up and reduced the deficit to three points with the try of the afternoon from North, who collected the ball deep inside his own 22, set off down the left flank and over the halfway-line, leaving pursuers in his wake, for a breathtaking individual score.

The locals had one final opportunity when deciding to take a tap penalty just outside the home side’s 22. But although their forwards powered to the line, East Retford’s defence stood firm.

Now Ashfield must pick themselves up when they return to league action at Grimsby this Saturday.