A STIRRING second-half fightback was not quite enough for Ashbourne after they had been made to look second best for the first 40 minutes by Spalding in Midlands Division Two East (North).
The second-placed Lincolnshire side raced into a 23-3 lead during that time and it proved enough to take the points.
A large crowd was swelled by guests for the vice-presidents' dinner as Ashbourne took on the division's title-chasers.
Although Ashbourne are third themselves, the gulf between the sides in the first half looked a lot larger.
Spalding dominated possession, playing some exciting open rugby.
Ashbourne just tackled and tackled, gaining little ball with which to force the vistors back towards their own line.
Spalding's tally of first-half points came from three tries, two penalties and a conversion.
Ashbourne's latest kicker, Ed Worthington, slotted a neat penalty to put them on the board.
The second half was a different story, as a more positive Ashbourne took charge and began to chase down Spalding's lead.
Monty Lyon led the way with charging runs and fine tackling, while Chris Rose and Tom Clayton broke the line to give the backs chance to open up, particularly through Adam Curley, who was superb.
Winger Andy McKinlay set up the first try when he fielded a deep kick and set off on a good run, beating one man, chipping ahead and reaching it before off-loading to send Worthington over the line.
Worthington then slotted a penalty and the pressure mounted.
Another forward surge saw Rob Farr enter the line 10 metres out and he fed Mark Maznenko to go over, making it 23-16 with eight minutes left.
Spalding held on, just but it had, in the end, been a titanic battle between the sides.
ASHBOURNE: Fernihough, Wright, Clayton, Greenway, Rose, S Maznenko, Lyon, Broom ,M Maznenko, P Maznenko, J Carter, Curley, Farr, Halling, Worthington, McKinlay.
● ASHBOURNE Under 12s came back from the Ilkeston festival with as winners of the plate competition, jointly with Bakewell.
They were beaten only by overall winners Derby and that only by a solitary try.
From a side that used to lose heavily in these tournaments, they are now worthy opponents for anybody in the three counties area.
SQUAD: Dixon, Edwards, Frith, Hart, Heath, Heskin, Hughes, Jefferies, Leiper, Massey, McCabe, Moon, Schratz, Scotcher, Scott, Seddon, Shaw, Shrimpling, Smith, Taylor-Grout, Thraves, Wheeldon, Yates.
● DEPLETED by Duke of Edinburgh commitments, Ashbourne's under-15 went down 41-0 to Sheffield Tigers.
They battled hard but, with only 16 players to pick from, the result was inevitable.