Off-form Ashfield RUFC were knocked off the top of the table after they were beaten 30-5 by Bingham.
Ashfield needed to bounce back from two consecutive defeats to maintain their top of the table position, but they did not expect to encounter a spirited Bingham side who played the conditions and better rugby throughout.
It’s difficult to identify the reason for the loss of form by Ashfield. They currently have injuries, they have players who have made themselves unavailable, and the numbers at training have dwindled, but it’s the lack of confidence that is most worrying as Ashfield only a few weeks ago looked to go all season undefeated in the league.
Head Coach Paul Hodson said: “Today was a difficult result to take, we were beaten by the better team and I know at the end of the game all the lads were bitterly disappointed.
“League titles are not decided on one game and I am sure that our lads will use this defeat as motivation for the rest of the season, following the examples of players Rob Kirk and Mark Denman who both put in great effort in defeat”.
Bingham playing with the wind at their backs in the first half and unsurprisingly took an early lead with a try from forward Lee Stokoe.
Ashfield have for several weeks fallen foul of the referee’s whistle and it was a series of penalties that lead to the first try as Bingham went 7-0 up.
Trying to clear their defensive line, Ashfield kicked the ball away and how Bingham made them pay.
John Thomas crossed the try line from a 5m scrum in front of the Ashfield posts following another moment on indiscipline by the Ashfield forwards to extend the lead to 12-0.
Ashfield had few clear cut chances in this match, but on 26 minutes, following a sustained period of play inside the Bingham 22, Ashfield should have converted this territory advantage into points.
Ashfield’s forwards, in particular Dan Chapman and Chris Houseman, coming close but Bingham were resolute in defence.
With the penalty count increasing it was inevitable that the referee would take some stern action and it was the Bingham scrum half who took a team yellow card, the first of four the referee would issue.
This didn’t affect the Bingham side who had gained in confidence throughout the opening 30 minutes.
It was an indiscretion by Ashfield’s Mark Denman, holding on in a ruck that gave Bingham a further three points, which was compounded by a yellow card to Denman for his troubles. Some 15m out and in centre field, the invitation was accepted, to give the home side a commanding 15 point lead.
With the players from both sides trying the referee’s patience, flanker Simon Downie was time and again penalised at the breakdown when he was for the majority playing the ball legally.
But it was Bingham on 43 minutes who collected their second yellow card for not rolling away having moments earlier returned to 15 players.
The half-time whistle sounded much to the relief of Ashfield who were sure a 15 point cushion for the home side would not be enough to defend.
With the second half underway Ashfield had pegged the Bingham side back to the edge of their 22 with probing runs by Andy Bennett, Gareth Jones and Greg Newbutt and, against the run of play Bingham stole the ball and broke from deep.
Playing a running game, which was the best way to play the conditions, and eventually finding wing Jamie Graham, who raced in for a try from just inside his own half. The conversion was missed but Bingham had now increased their lead to 20 points.
The referee then penalised Ashfield’s Matt Upton for not rolling away in the tackle and to add further misery he was shown a yellow card.
With this, the belief seemed to drain from Ashfield and were systematically taken apart by a rampant Bingham side.
With the Ashfield midfield exposed, Alex Richards breezed through three flailing defenders on 71 minutes to score Bingham’s fourth try to all but seal the victory.
Ashfield did score a consolation try on 77 minutes through Mark Denman going in from close range.
With the game almost up there was time for Jamie Graham to race in again for his second try with the Ashfield defence nowhere to be seen.
Ashfield Ladies secured their first league victory over Scunthorpe Ladies RUFC by 15-12.
Tries from Vicky Fagan and Jo Dawson with a conversion and penalty from Chip Harrison secured a vital and much-needed home victory.
Ashfield should take great confidence from this victory and believe that they can match the opposition in skill, endeavour and desire.