Buoyant Belper reduce Ashfield’s unbeaten home record to tatters

PLOUGHING A LONE FURROW -- Andy Bennett tries to make ground during Ashfield's crushing defeat at home to Belper.
PLOUGHING A LONE FURROW -- Andy Bennett tries to make ground during Ashfield's crushing defeat at home to Belper.

The undefeated home record of Ashfield was reduced to tatters by local rivals, Belper, after a lacklustre performance that left players, coaches and a large crowd bemused.

Mid-table Ashfield were not only beaten by a Belper side sitting below them in the National League, Midlands 3 East (North) table. They also failed to muster a single point in a wholly unexpected 22-0 reverse.

For the Derbyshire team, the result was a welcome tonic that enabled them to move away from the bottom three in the division, courtesy of only their fifth victory of the campaign.

But for Ashfield, it was a display that left director rugby, Mark Denman, scratching his head at the final whistle and struggling to find answers.

“We looked like 15 strangers on the pitch. Our passing game didn’t work as we made too many handling errors. We also gave away too many penalties that surrendered good territory time and time again.

“We have to treat this home defeat as a one-off with crucial games coming up. We know we are a better side than this scoreline suggests and we have to put the wrongs right on the training ground.”

Playing with the strong wind at their backs in the first half, Ashfield’s forward momentum was stopped at the gain line by a determined Belper side who made a mockery of their league form, which had been poor going into this game.

Over the 80 minutes, the visitors were the better side. They were strong in defence, disruptive at the breakdown and played the conditions to perfection, scoring all their points in a wind-assisted second half.

There was little to talk about in the opening half. Indeed the only point of note was a failed penalty attempt from Ashfield’s Gareth Purnell. But the calm didn’t prepare the Ashfield crowd for the storm that would rage after the interval.

Making an ideal start with the wind at their backs, Belper broke the stalemate by scoring a penalty inside a minute of the restart. And this was followed by an unconverted try and two further converted tries.

Ashfield’s miserable day was compounded by a generator failure at their ground, which meant no hot showers for either side or the officials after the game.

All in all, they will be desperate for better fortunes this coming Saturday when they find themselves with home advantage in the Midlands Cup against Stewarts and Lloyds from Corby (kick-off 2.15 pm).

Meanwhile Belper remain in league action and travel to face struggling Nottingham Moderns, who sit next to bottom in the table with only two wins from 14 matches.