Captain Chris Houseman was shown a straight red card as Ashfield RUFC bowed out of the Midlands Cup on another muddy afternoon to forget at Larwood Park.
Houseman was dismissed for an alleged punch towards the end of a battling second-half display against Corby visitors Stewarts & Lloyds that ended in an 18-0 defeat.
It was the second home match running that Ashfield had failed to score a single point, and brought a philosophical response from director of rugby, Mark Denman.
“An 18-0 home defeat is not what we expected,” Denman said. “Our squad has achieved so much in the past two or three seasons, including gaining promotion and retaining the Nottiknghamshire Vase. But we faced a very good side here. They were well organised, just edged possession and also created the scoring chances, which they took. The red card didn’t help our cause, but it wasn’t a contributing factor in our defeat.”
As at many grounds last weekend, conditions were terrible. A gusting wind blew the length of the pitch, while constant rain that was heavy at times made the playing surface tricky to say the least.
Playing into the wind in the first half, Stewarts & Lloyds produced a near-perfect 40 minutes. Their game plan was simple -- keep the ball in hand, attack around the fringes and ensure the ball is retained. It worked to a tee, generating two tries, one of which was converted, and a penalty, giving them an unassailable 15-0 lead at the interval.
Ashfield had few opportunities to score throughout the tie, with the only real chance being a first-half penalty that was missed by Gareth Purnell.
After the break, the hosts upped the tempo and looked the better side for a large part of the half. Front-row players Dan Morgan and replacement Adam Roebuck carried the ball well and when called upon for their defensive duties, Billy North and Tyler Morgan held the line tight.
But with their increased possession, Ashfield found it hard to penetrate the visitors’ 22 and tempers began to strain. This led to some ‘handbag’ skirmishes, although nothing that warranted the intervention of the referee. Therefore, it was surprising when he issued the red card to Houseman that was preceded by two yellow cards to Ashfield teammates.
Stewarts and Lloyds duly cashed in with another penalty, leaving Ashfield desperate to pick themselves up when they return to league action this Saturday (2.15 pm) at Boston.