A Churchillian-style rallying-cry by coach Gareth Jones inspired a stirring, late fightback by Ashfield to grab an unlikely victory over Grimsby in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League.
Despite home advantage at Larwood Park, Ashfield were second best for much of the game, and trailed the physical visitors 19-14 with only ten minutes to play.
But Jones roused his troops during a break in play, and they responded with two tries from Greg Newbutt and Jake Manning that earned a 26-19 success and avoided a rare home defeat. They also picked up a bonus point for scoring four tries and now sit fifth in the table, just four points off second place.
“Grimsby controlled the game for long periods, probably because of the errors we made,” said Jones.
“Looking back on the first half, we could, and possibly should, have scored two or maybe three tries, but our handling was poor.
“The positives we can take from the game will stand us in good stead moving forward, however. Our pack was awesome in the second half and gave a winning platform for our backs to score the tries.”
With their physical game-plan, Grimsby took full advantage of the poor decision-making and handling blunders of the home side and soon raced into a ten-point lead through a converted try and a penalty.
Ashfield were woeful during this period and even though they finally got on the scoresheet when good lineout work by Greg Utting led to an unconverted try by Billy North, they were soon conceding again, via a penalty, when they played the ball in a ruck.
The hosts’ frustration boiled over on the stroke of half-time when a “handbags” moment led to a clash involving several players, including Jake Manning, who received a yellow card. And it wasn’t long before Grimsby were extending their lead to 16-7 from a penalty, awarded for handling.
Manning returned to score a try, rescuing the ball and beating four men in a confined space with some raw power to score under the posts. But it took another Grimsby score before Ashfield finally hit top gear.
The galvanised pack were dominant in the closing stages. And with the set-piece plays of lineout and scrum finally firing, the match was turned round.
It was a recovery that delighted director of rugby Mark Denman, who couldn’t contain his excitement at the end of the game. “No matter what you throw at this side, they keep going for 80 minutes,” said Denman.