Ashfield lose at leaders Loughborough

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Ashfield RUFC suffered another away defeat, going down 26-3 to league leaders Loughborough, who on the day didn’t let the visitors settle into any rhythm throughout the game.

Ashfield were expecting a tough game, but it wasn’t the challenge they thought it would be as for large periods of the game they matched the home side.

On the defeat, Mark Denman, Ashfield’s director of rugby said: “We had no rhythm to our game today.

“The Loughborough team were well drilled and quick to spoil at the break down and at the base of our scrum.

“Scrum half Michael Elliott had little or no time throughout the game to deliver quality ball to the backs.

“The Loughborough back row played on the edge as they are entitled to do and were lightning quick. This, on top of our handling errors, made it a difficult afternoon all-round.”

Both teams struggled with greasy and, at times, wet conditions with numerous handling errors costing them possession in promising field positions.

This was evident from the kick-off as Ashfield’s knock-on gave the home side the opportunity to takes an early three-point lead from in front of the posts.

The visitors escaped this potential early setback when the Loughborough fly half pulled his effort wide of the upright.

Ashfield reciprocated when Billy North pulled his penalty attempt wide within four minutes.

Ashfield enjoyed the early possession and played much of the opening 10 minutes in the opponents’ half, but a yellow card to Denman for not retreating 10m following a quick tap penalty had an immediate effect when the home side scored a converted try.

With 14 players, Ashfield pressed on through Craig Ward, Jono Richardson and Guy Jones and were unlucky on a number of occasions not to have crossed the try line when on another day they could have scored a couple of tries.

But a Billy North penalty did reduce the arrears to four points, which gave a half time score line of 7-3.

The second half saw a mostly rearguard action from Ashfield and as the half wore on the home side became stronger.

Taking nothing away from Loughborough who were well drilled and disciplined the enforced changes seen all season cannot help the game preparation of Ashfield.

With the home side becoming stronger and more dominant as the second half progressed, Loughborough dictated the tempo of the game and there runners crossed the gain line far too easily gaining good meterage on numerous occasions.

Loughborough scored a further three tries, two being converted, with their fourth earning a bonus point with some sublime and incisive moves from their backs.

From the final score this looked a one sided game. However, this did not reflect the hard work Ashfield put into the game over the 80 minutes.

Coach Gareth Jones was philosophical at the final whistle, saying: “We were competitive for 65 minutes against the league leaders which is a credit to the players who put in a great team performance

“We have reached the midpoint of the season and we are in fifth place and, with the second half to come, we are in a great position following our promotion last season.”

Ashfield are in cup action on Saturday, January 2, kick-off 2.15pm against Newcastle RFU in the last 16 of the RFU Midlands Senior Vase.