Individual errors cost Ashfield dear as they sank to only their third defeat of the season in a clash with high-riding Kesteven.
In a hard but good-natured contest, Ashfield fell to a 43-12 defeat in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the national league.
And despite two tries from second row Craig Ward, who was a threat throughout, and despite playing their usual physical game, they contributed to their own downfall.
The scoreline might suggest it was a comfortable win for Kesteven, who move up to second in the table. But this was far from the truth as Ashfield enjoyed plenty of possession.
Coach Gareth Jones accepted that “Kesteven were the better side, clinical when their opportunities came and deserved their win”. But he added: “On a day when we had 60% possession, our mistakes literally played into their hands and you can’t gift a team easy scoring chances.
“When we received our first yellow card, the score was still 0-0. We soon found ourselves 14-0 down and never really recovered from this early setback.”
Ashfield went on to to be shown five yellow cards and felt hard done by. But after the game, director of rugby Mark Ddenman urged his players to put the disappointment behind them and issued a rallying-cry.
“Our current league position (sixth) is down to the performance of the players,” Denman said. “We must increase the intensity and number at training and be competitive on our travels.
“Today was a real leveller and brought us back down to earth after our good start to the season. We were hugely disappointing at the set-piece, especially the scrum, which is an area we normally excel in”.
After that early card, Ashfield succumbed to two tries inside the first 20 minutes. When the referee then evened up the card tally, the visitors immediately seized their opportunity when an unopposed Ward ran in a 20-metre try. But once back in the game, they were found wanting in defence and allowed Kesteven to score a further two tries and one conversion before the interval.
The second half couldn’t come quickly enough for Ashfield, who needed to regroup and take advantage of the fierce wind that swept the length of the pitch amd conditions very difficult. Changes worked and Ward pounced again after good forward play involving Matt Turnbull, who carried the ball to great effect.
However, the referee then took centre stage when he reduced both sides to 14 players in separate, innocuous incidents. It swung the initiative Kesteven’s way as they ran in a further three tries without reply.