Grimsby might be the title of Sacha ‘Ali G’ Baron Cohen’s latest comedy film. But the venue was no laughing matter for Ashfield RUFC in their latest National League, Midlands 3 East (North) division match.
Facving a rejuvenated home side, Ashfield conceded six tries and crashed to a 33-3 defeat as their mounting injury-list finally caught up with them.
Already depleted, Gareth Jones’s side suffered two more hammer-blows at training last midweek when Jake Manning sustained a double leg-fracture and Curtis Green broke a finger.
It took their list of unavailable players to an unprecedented 11, meaning they had to field debutants for the trip to Humberside. So, despite the scoreline, Jones was philosophical about the loss to a team one place below them in the table. and was quick to praise the players who filled the breach.
“The players coming in from out second team did a great job,” said the coach. “They not only made the 200-mile round trip, they also showed a willingness to play, sometimes out of position as the game progressed.
“At our level, teams will be competitive with a settled squad, but the injuries to Jake and Curtis were a massive loss.”
To their credit, Ashfield started the game brightly and it was against the run of play when Grimsby scored their first try. What’s more, the plucky visitors quickly played themselves back into the game with a well-struck penalty by Gareth Purnell.
From a 5-3 scoreline, however, the home side started to exert pressure on the Ashfield receivers and ball-carriers that forced handling errors, which were capitalised on to devastating effect. As they added two further tries, one converted, Grimsby went in at half-time with a 17-3 lead.
With the advantage of the blustery conditions in the second period, Ashfield thought they could turn the game around. But the Grimsby back row were playing with high intensity, aided by their centre pairing that, at times, played outside the laws of the game, resulting in three yellow cards for the home side.
This high intensity severely restricted Ashfield’s scoring opportunities, although their game management could have been better. That aside, Grimsby did play the better rugby.
The hosts matched their first-half score with three further tries and one conversion before the final whistle brought relief to the visiting team who, to a man, had the pain of defeat etched on their faces.
With all the injuries, the club’s selection team are genuinely concerned about being able to field a consistent side that will give the continuity Ashfield had during 2015. They still have four matches to negotiate -- including three against the top trio in the table, Kesteven, Loughborough and Lincoln -- and face a battle to stay in the top six.