Late tries from Tyler Morgan and Gareth Purnell kept Ashfield’s promotion hopes alive as they overcame a spirited Cleethorpes side 26-14.
It was a result which delighted coach Paul Hodson after the lead had changed hands six times.
Hodson said: “It was a really good performance today, with great commitment from the players and supporters who made the long journey.
“It’s our first win at Cleethorpes for a few years and the lads did it in style.
“All the lads played their part, but a special mention for Pete Alldread and Tyler Morgan who added pace and aggression.”
Pat Orrell at prop was drafted into the pack to bolster the beleaguered forwards as three regular first team squad members were missing due to prior commitments as this game had been re-arranged.
However the travelling players placed their relationship on hold as promotion was their priority on this Valentine’s Day game.
The first 14 minutes was a cagey affair with neither side taking the initiative or making a clear scoring opportunity.
The deadlock was broken on 15 minutes when an Ashfield player was penalised at the breakdown for sealing off.
With the penalty offence inside the Ashfield 22, Cleethorpes had no hesitation in kicking for goal, and Matt Stinson didn’t miss from close range.
This early score was soon erased as a blindside break by Ashfield’s scrum half Tyler Morgan, who was at the heart of everything for Ashfield, was halted unfairly by a high tackle that on another day would have drawn a yellow card for the Cleethorpes centre.
From a central position, and 15 metres out, Gareth Purnell kicked his side level.
Purnell had a further opportunity to give Ashfield the lead when the referee penalised a Cleethorpes player for entering a rolling maul from the side. This time Purnell dragged his kick left of the far upright.
This gave Ashfield the confidence to start going through the phases, one of which lead to the first of their three tries and what a try it was. Prop Chris Houseman drove at the heart of the Cleethorpes defence and was held up 2m from the try line.
From the base of a ruck, Tyler Morgan fed the ball to Billy North, who was set deep and it looked like a drop goal attempt was on the cards. But with the backs positioned to his right, his exquisite cross field kick was inch perfect for Rob Kirk to gather and touch down. Purnell missed with his conversion attempt to leave Ashfield 8-3 up.
But back came Cleethorpes, at a breakdown, Jake Manning was harshly judged to have played the ball off his feet that not only presented an easy penalty attempt, but also earned him a yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin bin.
The penalty was duly despatch by Stinson reducing the arrears to two points.
The second half commenced with another penalty award to Cleethorpes for not rolling away after the tackle.Stinson again despatched his kick to give the home side a slender lead 9-8.
The frustrating aspect of Ashfield’s play of late has been the high penalty count in their own half. This could be down to defensive errors or players being overzealous, either way these must be eradicated from their play.
Billy North with another piece of composure that belies his tender age as he added a drop goal to his repertoire from 22m out. This should have turned the initiative back to the away side, but it was Cleethorpes who were next on the score sheet.
A good break by the Cleethorpes pack gave a good platform for the on form Stinson to crash over the line, with his missed conversion the lead had swung again as the home side led 14-11.
But again Cleethorpes threw their advantage away and they were penalised for holding on in the tackle and Purnell made it 14-14 with his penatly.
Ashfield from open play had made good ground with ball in hand particular Savenaca “Koro” Koroibulileka, Pete Alldread and Chris Houseman, but it was Manasa Volakisuva, who from his own half raced away, from the Cleethorpes defence.
With the full-back to beat, Manasa was caught in two minds. But, with Tyler Morgan, in support he gathered the ball and raced over the try line and with Purnell adding the conversion Ashfield had a 21-14 lead.
With the game ebbing away from Cleethorpes, a flowing Ashfield backs move saw Purnell drive over the try line.
This time his conversion attempt from tight on the touch line fell short. However his try had sealed a victory giving Ashfield 12 point winning margin.