A disastrous first half cost Ashfield dear as their away-day woes continued at Aylestone St James in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League.
Ashfield found themselves 22 points down by the interval as they sought in vain for that elusive first win on their travels this season. But at least they gained some solace from a spirited fightback when they scored the only points of the second half and ended up going down to a 22-10 defeat that could have been much worse.
Coach Gareth Jones said: “In the first half, we were second best against a very hard and determined side whose pack carried the ball to great effect. It
is obvious that our away form is poor, but in the second half, we played at a higher tempo and looked the better side, finishing the stronger.“
Aylestone, who sit just below Ashfield in the table, showed their intent from the kick-off as their receiving ball-carrier broke the gain line for the first time of many during the opening half.
The visitors never settled as their scramble defence and last-ditch tacking faced the sternest of tests. Cracks appeared as soon as the third minute when the home side missed a kickable penalty, but their scrum-half made amends two minutes later to give them a three-point lead.
With the tone set, Aylestone overran Ashfield around the fringes of the breakdown and, uncharacteristically, the locals’ reshuffled midfield missed far too many tackles. The Leicestershire outfit ran in three tries, one of which was converted, to leave Ashfield far too much to do.
Jones demanded more commitment in the second half, and his challenge was answered when captain Chris Houseman went over close to the posts for an unconverted try after good work from Billy North. Suddenly, Ashfield found the runners and exploited them, crossing the gain line through Andy Bennett, Dan Littlewood and Houseman, while some astute kicking by North probed and exploited the high line the home side took.
With the visitors asking all the questions, and Aylestone’s large pack tiring, it looked as if a miraculous turnaround was on the cards. But it was not to be as the home defence held fast until the very last play of the game when Matt Upton’s grubber kick was pounced on by Tyler Morgan, who outpaced his opposite number to score an unconverted try.
The defeat sees Ashfield fall a place to sixth, ahead of a home clash with struggling Belper this Saturday (2.15 pm).