With Bingham unable to field a team, it was left to Ashfield’s Development squad to fly the Ashfield RUFC senior flag on Saturday.
In first half conditions that can only be described as atrocious, with high winds, hailstones, thunder and lightning that turned the Larwood Park pitch into a second half mud bath, Ashfield dominated from start to finish to gain a comfortable 31-0 home victory over Ilkeston.
Ashfield have a settled side, a mixture of past senior youth and experience that have achieved good results in recent weeks and with Ilkeston’s kick-off going straight into touch, Ashfield had a scrum on the centre spot.
Scrum half Tim Gibbons fed the ball in, and Jamie Stevenson hooked the ball back to No.8 Gary Jefferies, who picked up at the base of the scrum. This set up a sustained passage of play that ultimately led to Ashfield’s first points of the afternoon.
Danny Wilson’s direct running from a loose ball took the ball to the opposition’s 22.
The ball was recycled and Wilson’s centre partner, Andy Bennett broke to the 5m line.
A penalty to Ashfield saw Gary Jefferies take a quick tap penalty and he set off on a crossfield run.
Jefferies fed Danny Wilson, who in turn put in Sean Payne for his first try in two years in the corner, captain Chris Allen, with the conversion, then putting Ashfield seven points in the lead.
Ilkeston looked to have played themselves back into the game, forcing Ashfield back into their own 22, but with a resolute defence the home side weathered the storm - literally.
With thunder and lightning crashing and streaking overhead the referee could have taken the players from the field, but he chose to play on.
This made playing almost impossible with players unable to see due to hailstones falling that at times were the size of a 5p piece.
With neither team taking the initiative, the game not surprisingly became a stalemate, and at the interval Ashfield led 7-0.
The low-scoring first half didn’t fill the very wet and windswept home crowd with much cheer and they possibly thought much of the same was to follow in the second half. But as the elements relented, a further 24 unanswered points would be scored by Ashfield.
Ashfield forwards were in the ascendancy, with Chris Warnes having his most influential game of the season.
Time and again he broke the gain line, and on one such occasion his break set a great platform for Chris Allen to score Ashfield’s second try of the afternoon.
Allen missed his conversion attempt, but Ashfield now led by 12 points.
Allen’s try was quickly followed by Darren Jones, who turned the clock back by showing his speed and agility to score under the posts.
Allen this time converted the try via the inside of the left hand upright and Ashfield’s lead was now 19 points.
That was further extended by a great solo effort by Tom Childs, who carved his way through the Ilkeston defence, finishing off his run under the posts to score, Allen again adding the two extra points.
The final play of the game saw wing Rob Kirk score in the corner, again after some great work by the forwards, in particular Dan Morgan and John White, though Allen missed the conversion.