In a match of only eight points, Ashfield Ladies were pipped by high-flying rivals Lutterworth Ladies in a tight and tense top-of-the-table clash.
It was the opening fixture of 2017 for Ashfield as they sat third in the Midlands First Division of the Women’s National Conference. And although they went down 5-3 to a Lutterworth side who duly shot into first place, just above Old Leamingtonians Ladies, at least they gave as good as they got and also picked up a losing bonus point.
They will be looking to regain the winning thread this coming Sunday when they travel to Northamptonshire to take on Wellingborough Ladies, who are currently third from bottom in the eight-team table.
Leicestershire outfit Lutterworth, who have now won eight of their nine games so far this term, started the strongest, despite attempts by flanker Vicki Fegan to disrupt their lineout. The home side’s strong scrum enabled them to win the ball in Ashfield’s 22 and they deftly shipped it through the hands of the backs to score on the wing and take an early 5-0 lead.
From the restart, Ashfield debutant Hannah Cartwright showed her speed and skill, chasing the kick and executing the perfect tackle. She continued with a flawless performance that earned her the players’ player-of-the-match award.
The visitors were eventually rewarded for their hard work with a penalty that versatile number eight Leanne Reeves neatly slotted over the posts to reduce the deficit.
Scoring points woke Ashfield up and they began to play the excellent rugby they had been noted for in 2016, with centres Lauren Dearing and Leonie Cruxon combining well in both attack and defence. Coaches’ player-of-the-match Eve Byrne also grafted, showing good support-play and tidying up the loose ball, while scrum-half Bek Daft always looked to exploit the gaps with her strong running.
The game swung up and down the pitch, with both sides having their share of possession and giving away penalties. But amazingly, there was no more scoring as Ashfield were made to regret not finishing their chances.