Two tries at the beginning of each half for Ashfield RUFC, in conjunction with some resolute defending secured a vital home win over Aylestone St James 25-18 in a Midlands 3 East (North) game that threatened to boil over throughout the 80 minutes.
Aylestone, with their physical and at times brutal approach, gave the Ashfield XV a stern test that the home side did well to contain.
Chris Houseman, Ashfield’s maturing captain was outstanding throughout especially by keeping his team focused on the game and not the on field antics of the opposition. Ashfield were on the score sheet within two minutes of the start, thanks to a Billy North interception deep in his own half that saw him race 70m alluding his pursuers for a great individual try.
Gareth Purnell added the two point conversion, giving Ashfield a seven-point lead. Aylestone came back and within seven minutes their No.8 had scored a try following a collapsed 5m scrum that on another day would have been reset. The conversion was missed, but the gap was now two points. A missed penalty by Ashfield’s Gareth Purnell, following foul play by Aylestone’s No.8, could have had given the home side a little breathing space, and his miss was compounded when the visitors went in front through a converted try. Through Ashfield’s pack, sustained pressure was applied on the Aylestone defence that, to their credit, repelled multiple phases until they stole the ball and drove downfield, scoring a converted try by their second row player. Ashfield were now five points adrift but with the forward moment of the pack, Houseman, Mark Denman, Greg Utting, Dan Chapman, Matt Turnbull, Dan Morgan, Chris Warnes and the impressive Jono Richardson, they collectively wore down Aylestone and it wasn’t long before Ashfield went ahead through their second converted try.
A platform was created by the forwards allowing the backs freedom to fashion a typical Rob Kirk set free by Jake Manning, who in the process of making good ground broke two tackles. Purnell added the additional points and it was now 14-12 to Ashfield.
Ashfield had two further opportunities to increase their lead prior to half-time.
However, a third Purnell penalty was missed as was an attempted drop goal by Billy North.
But would not detract from a first half performance that had desire and commitment from all players.
The second half had only just begun when the large crowd saw Houseman score his try after some unselfish work by Jono Richardson from the kick-off.
Purnell missed the opportunity to stretch the Ashfield lead as he left his kick short of the crossbar, however Ashfield now had a lead of 19-12.
The Ashfield score seemed to reignite the fire within Aylestone and on two separate occasions try-saving tackles by first Dan Morgan and then Mark Denman saved certain tries for the visitors.
But they did play themselves back into the game with two successful penalties, bringing them to within a point.
The game then swung in favour of Ashfield with two converted penalties by Purnell, the first awarded for not rolling away after the tackle, the second awarded for sealing off, the score increasing to 25-18.
With no further score, Ashfield played out the remaining few minutes in their own half, however the result by this time never looked in doubt.
Ashfield are next in league action on Saturday, October 24 with an away match against Belper.