Stunned Mansfield failed to capitalise on a FOUR-man advantage when sliding to defeat against a side they amassed more than 50 points against earlier in the season.
Opponents Ashbourne were reduced to 11 men at one stage after an unprecedented flurry of yellow cards that left spectators at Eakring Road gobsmacked.
But somehow they not only survived but, when returned to full strength, they produced a dogged and determined performance that earned them a 28-15 victory and banished the dark day in September when Mansfield hammered them 53-15 in a cup clash.
The outcome, which also saw them miss out on a losing bonus point, left the home side third from bottom in the Midlands 2 East (North) Division after four defeats from five outings. And while head coach Wayne Robinson felt there were “so many things we did half-well” in the match, he also admitted that “we have much to work on”.
Mansfield certainly have plenty to think about while domestic rugby takes a break this weekend for the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham. The blue-and-whites will be targeting a return to winning ways when they travel to meet Bakewell Mannerians, one of only two sides below them in the table, on Saturday, November 7.
The Ashbourne game was indicative of the hosts’ rollercoaster start to the new campaign. They knew they were capable of beating the visitors, and a positive start increased confidence as Lee Shaw went over in the corner for the opening try.
Good play by man-of-the-match Pete Alldread, fierce runs by Gareth Gripton and Liam Annabelle, excellent breakdown thievery by Jimmy Bennet and a dominant scrum, led by captain Liam Grant, should have seen them build on such a start. But instead, Ashbourne recorded two tries of their own, converting both, and the second, a penalty try, saw Mansfield wing Emmanuel Ogonude sent to the sin bin for foul play.
The visitors soon had two players yellow-carded themselves, but with the scrum the only thing that was working well for the hosts, Mansfield trailed 14-5 at the interval.
The second half was much like the first, with the greasy pitch getting the better of both teams, and any territory often lost.
Ogunode made up for his earlier indiscretion by scoring a try and after the visitors had lost their third and fourth players to the sin bin, Mansfield edged ahead with another score out wide. However, they failed to register another point throughout the rest of the game, finding it too hard to put together enough phases to threaten or exploit numerous overlaps that were created. Simple running lines would surely have stretched a tired and overworked Ashbourne defence.
To add to Mansfield’s woes, they lost two players of their own to the sin bin -- Andy Simms for a tackle in the air and Josh Hall for offside. And when Ashbourne were restored to a full complement, they kicked three penalties and added a third try to seal their win.