Ashfield RUFC sealed promotion despite having their seven game unbeaten run ended 18-17 by Tupton.
Delighted head coach Paul Hodson was ecstatic after the game and said: “Although we lost the battle today, we have finally won the war.
“After a fantastic season, I am immensely proud of everyone who has played a part in earning Ashfield promotion. What a fantastic achievement, well done everyone.”
Tupton have provided Ashfield with strong opposition in recent years and Saturday was no exception as they ran out victorious by a slender one point margin. Ashfield, without three backs from the previous week’s victory, had to reshuffle the squad that looked prior to kick off to have the attacking capabilities required to ensure victory.
But on a day that should have seen the visitors keep pace with league leaders Belper, they found themselves largely frustrated due to a resolute defensive performance by the home side.
The game commenced with Ashfield playing up the slope and into a stiff head wind in the first half.
But they made a great start after Billy North scored and converted his own try for a 7-0 lead.
Tupton’s response was immediate following a period of pressure that Ashfield initially did well to contain. But with two consecutive penalties under the posts, Ashfield cracked as Tupton made it 7-5.
Ashfield marched up the field, phase after phase, with good ball carrying from Dan Chapman, Mark Denman, James Kirk and Josh Heald taking the side deep into the Tupton 22.
A penalty was awarded to Ashfield for not rolling away in the tackle and quick thinking from Josh Heald saw the defence was not set and he dived he tapped and dived over the line for a try to extend the lead to 12-5.
Tupton narrowed the gap when they were given a penalty when wing Manasa Volakisuva was penalised for entering from the side when the ball was clearly out of the ruck.
Tupton then enjoyed a good spell of pressure, which resulted in several penalties later for not rolling away and led to Gareth Jones receiving a yellow card.
Short on numbers it wasn’t long before the Ashfield defence was breached when a try was scored and converted giving Tupton a 15–12.
A further penalty was conceded by Ashfield some 45m out and, with the conditions perfect the Tupton fly-half made no mistake to extend their lead to 18–12 on half -time.
Ashfield’s second half game plan was to hit the corners and pin the Tupton players deep in their own half.
The strategy worked to a degree, but the second half was interrupted time and again by the referee’s whistle, which prevented Ashfield building any momentum.
Ashfield did cut the gap to one point when James Kirk scored a try after six phases of play.
Ashfield pushed for the lead and went close when Savenaca Koroibulileka found himself with a 30 yard run to the try line. But his run was halted on the 5m line when he could and maybe should have scored a try.
Koroibulileka was again involved when a penalty was awarded to Ashfield 7m out that on another day could have been kicked. But he chose a tap penalty and flung a wayward pass out to Dan Morgan who unfortunately knocked on.
The final scoring action came down to a 35m penalty just left of centre that North had the chance to steel the win for Ashfield, but unfortunately his kick was wide of the mark.